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Albany's Young: 'Sky's the limit' for Clemson

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

CLEMSON, S.C. -- No one took Clemson's second-round loss in the NCAA Tournament last week harder than Andre Young -- the consummate perfectionist and ultimate competitor who left nothing on the floor during the 84-76 defeat to West Virginia in which Young tied a career high with 22 points.

But the Albany native and former Deerfield star is also a realist, and he knows there's no sense in dwelling on the way the season ended.

Because, after all, the future for the Tigers is bright.

"It's disappointing, sure, but I think as a whole we exceeded others' expectations of us," Young told The Herald in a phone interview Monday night. "I think people thought because we lost some seniors and got a new coach that this was going to be a down year for us, and it wasn't. We had a great year."

The Tigers finished 22-12 overall and 9-7 in the ACC one season after losing head coach Oliver Purnell, who left for DePaul.

Enter Brad Brownell, who not only didn't miss a beat, he helped Clemson officially erase the major monkey on its back: winning a game in the NCAA Tournament. Clemson hadn't been past the first round since 1997, but the Tigers squashed that streak in the tourney's first round with a 70-52 walloping of UAB. Young said Monday the UAB victory, and the one against Virginia Tech on Senior Night, were the two which stood out to him the most this year.

"Getting that win against Virginia Tech was big because it earned us a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament, and ending that streak was real big, too," said Young, a junior who averaged 11.1 points a game this season -- third on the team -- while finishing second in assists and first in steals. "But the ones that stand out (in a bad way) would obviously be (the losses to) West Virginia and to North Carolina."

The latter came in the ACC semis, which Clemson lost in OT after blowing a big lead late. Young said that's just one of the things the team needs to work on heading into next season.

"We can all become better players in the offseason. That's always the goal. But one thing we do well is that this team is full of competitors who really want to win games and I think we proved that this year in a season when a lot of people thought (we were going to struggle)," Young said. "I'm excited about next year because --while we lose four seniors -- we've got some good guys coming back, and young guys coming in who I know we can help bring along."

Young is especially excited about Year 2 under Brownell.

"Coach Brownell's first year went better than anyone expected. He's a coach that guys love to play for and his knowledge of the game is astounding. We all learned so much this year," said Young, who added that Brownell's teachings have furthered his desire to one day coach after he purses a career in the NBA, or overseas, playing pro ball following his senior season.

Young said Brownell's message to the team in the locker room after the loss to West Virginia was a conciliatory one, as well reflecting on the season as a whole and looking to the future.

"He told us we had a great season, and (to remember that) we were in every game, win or lose," Young said. "But he said he also hoped the loss left a bitter taste in the younger guys' mouths so we can come back, be better players next year and have a different result."

Young, a health and science major who hopes to one day go to medical school, was named to the ACC's All-Academic Team for the second straight year with a 3.3 GPA, and is on track to graduate early. He said plans to stay in Clemson for most of the summer to "knock out some classes and work out with the team."

One of the things Young wants to work on most is becoming an even bigger team leader than he was this year when he started 33 of Clemon's 34 games. He knows with just one season left in his collegiate career, it's now or never.

"We weren't ready to go home and we obviously thought we could (get by) West Virginia and go even further," he said. "But right now, all we can do is look to next year. After a long season, the little break is nice, but soon it'll be time to get back to work. I'm excited. The guys are excited and coach is excited. The sky's the limit for us. We'll be back."