Young and the restless

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- To Illustrate Andre Young's importance to Clemson's basketball team, the Tigers would not let him return to Albany earlier this year so his alma matter Deerfield-Windsor could retire his jersey.

Simply put, they could not do without him.

"I'm a big part of what they are trying to do here," Young told The Herald late Wednesday from Buffalo, where the Tigers are preparing for today's NCAA Tournament first-round game against Missouri. "I'm the backup point guard. At the time, (starting point guard Demontez Stitt) was hurt so at that point, I was probably starting. I know we definitely had a game coming up soon and we were scouting a team and it was important for all the guards to be at practice."

And if recent tourney history says anything, practice is exactly what the Tigers need.

Clemson's recent NCAA performances -- like the weather in Buffalo this week -- have been frigid. Clemson has lost its past two NCAA Tournament games as a higher seed (as a No. 5 against No. 12 Villanova in 2008, and as a No. 7 last season to No. 10 Michigan).

And Young, for one, hopes that trend ends today vs. the No. 10-seeded Tigers.

"I'd say we are determined," Young said. "We lost these last couple games, and there's doubters out there because of Clemson's history of shutting down near the end of the year. We're just using that as motivation. We don't want what happened the last two years to happen again. We're just going to go out and play hard, and try to advance."

Young was a valuable part of the program at Deerfield, where he finished his career as the Knights' all-time leading scorer with 2,062 points. After helping lead DWS to state runner-up finishes his freshman and senior seasons, Young -- now a sophomore at Clemson -- has another role as one of the Tigers' top reserves. That not only is a credit to Young's 8.9-point average per game, it also highlights his role on a deep team that emphasizes a fast-paced tempo.

Up to this point, Young feels the biggest difference in himself from last season is confidence.

"That confidence factor is huge," said Young, who averaged 4.4 points last season. "Coming in as a freshman, you don't know for sure how things are going to go. Now, I just let the game come to me as it goes along."

One of Young's highlights this season occurred at Florida State -- roughly a 90-minute drive from Albany -- where he made a midcourt shot as the halftime buzzer sounded and then gave Clemson the lead for good with less than 30 seconds in a 53-50 win against the Seminoles.

"I had not made a shot prior to (the half-court shot)," Young recalled. "That shot gave us momentum, and we came out in the second half and really locked down and scrapped out a win down there."

Young averages 26.2 minutes per game, which ranks third on the team. That, according to his father, Colie Young, speaks of how far the sophomore has come.

"If I was probably disappointed in anything, it would be the point that Andre is not starting right now," Colie said. "Him not starting has nothing to do with his play. He's playing starter's minutes."

Added Gordy Gruhl, who was Young's coach at Deerfield-Windsor: "I think they are a better team when he is in the game."

Young, meanwhile, said that confidence is not the only change he notices on the court.

This year, there's far less panic after a mistake.

"I always want to go out and do well, but clearly that won't always happen -- you're going to make mistakes," Young said. "I'm even learning now how to deal with that and the frustrations, and how to bounce back from those and taking the next possession and helping the team in a positive way."

For now, Young is just trying to enjoy just being in the NCAA Tournament.

"It's very exciting," Young said. "Not a lot of people can say they've played in it. There are only 65 teams in the tournament and it's hard to get in. It's been a long, grueling season. We've just been playing well the whole year. It's exciting to see how far we've come."