Former Deerfield star Andre Young went undrafted last year out of college, but he latched on with a pro team overseas in Holland, Den Bosch, and was recently named the MVP in his rookie year.
ALBANY — Somewhere, an NBA scout is watching film of Andre Young and wondering how he got away.
Young, the former Deerfield-Windsor and Clemson University star point guard, went undrafted out of college last year when all 32 NBA teams passed him over.
So Young set out on a journey overseas to prove he belonged.
Well, point proven.
On Tuesday, Young was named the MVP of the Dutch Basketball League after leading his team, Eiffel Towers Den Bosch (29-6), to the regular-season title and the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs, which begin tonight in Holland against No. 8 seed Stepco BS Weert (16-20). Young, Den Bosch’s 5-foot-9 point guard, averages 14.6 points and 6.1 assists per game.
Young, in an exclusive interview with The Herald on Tuesday evening, said winning the MVP was a goal of his when he left the States after not making an NBA roster.
“It’s funny … it was a goal of mine, but in the back of my mind, I wasn’t 100% sure if I could really do it,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Herald from the Netherlands. “The only reason why I thought that was because I did not know what to expect at all. I wasn’t familiar with the country of Holland; I wasn’t familiar with the European style of basketball; and I wasn’t familiar with other players/teams in the league.
“At the end of the day, I approached the season with the mindset that I was going to become the best basketball player that I can become and do everything possible for my team to win and get better.”
Young’s agent, Adam Pensack, said Tuesday that his first words to his client were some version of “Told ya so.”
“I’m being serious when I say this: We sort of expected this,” said Pensack, who runs Pensack Sports Management Group. “Before the season started, I put a bug in his ear that I thought this team he was going to play for (Den Bosch) was good enough already to win the championship, but with his help, they definitely could — and if they did, he would be a big reason why. I’m not saying this now to act like I’m some genius, I just really saw this coming. And he went out and made it happen.”
Andre’s father, Colie, said he spoke with his son shortly after learning the news Tuesday afternoon.
“I just told him, ‘Good job. I’m proud of you. Now onto the next one,’ ” Colie told The Herald. “I always thought he would hold his own going over there, but I never imagined he would be the MVP of the entire league. He has always risen to every challenge he’s faced, but being the MVP is quite impressive.”
To put in perspective what Andre, a rookie, accomplished, the DBL actually has a Rookie of the Year award, but the voters decided Andre not only was the best rookie, he was the best overall player.
Andre, who has long been a low-key, mild-mannered type of guy who was known for staying in and studying — rather than partying away his nights when he was a standout at Clemson — said that often being the center of attention in the league has taken some getting used to.
“I would not say that I am a star or that other fans come to see me play. I would say that some teams try to focus in on me; however, it is very difficult to do that because I am fortunate enough to have very good teammates who are more than capable to produce for the team,” wrote Andre, who also led the league in assist/turnover ratio, was fourth in steals and fourth in 3-point percentage. “It makes my job that much easier.”
Andre’s season-high is 27 points, which is two shy of his career-high he reached during a regular-season game against Georgia Tech his senior season. Colie said he’s often wondered how the level of play in the DBL compared to that of the ACC, and he asked his son that very question recently.
“He said it was too different to compare; just two totally different brands of basketball,” Colie said. “But something he did say that I thought was interesting was that he wishes he knew then what he knows now about the game — because he feels he could’ve been an even bigger impact player in college. That told me his game is really growing (overseas).”
Andre said his game has gotten sharper, for sure, but that he’s no where close to peaking.
“I would probably have to say getting to the rim and playing in pick and roll situations (is where I’ve improved the most). I can still improve in both areas. Over the summer, I really worked on getting to the basket and finishing around the rim. I knew that this could possibly open up my shot even more because I would be more than just a shooting threat,” he wrote. “Guys would have to also respect the drive. As for pick and roll situations, that IS European basketball. To be successful here in Europe, you have to be good in pick and roll situations.
“So I just got better as the season progressed. It was just a matter of getting in reps in the games and at practice and understanding how to make reads.”
That’s music to Colie’s ears. After all, Andre’s father has tried for years to get his son to be more aggressive on the court. And now that Andre is attacking the rim, Colie said he thinks he knows why.
“Once you start getting paid to play, you understand that if you don’t perform, they don’t bench you or (give you a stern talk) — they put your butt on a plane and send you home,” Colie said with a laugh. “I think he’s taken a mental approach that he needs to bring it every night, and that’s what he’s done.”
Andre’s newfound aggression and MVP honors likely makes Den Bosch the playoffs’ biggest target. But all Andre said he was thinking about Tuesday night — on the eve of the franchise’s playoff opener — was winning a championship.
“I feel like we are our worst enemy. When we are rolling on all cylinders, we are very good. However, it all starts within the team. I love playing for Den Bosch because of the great chemistry between the players and coaches,” he wrote. “If we really focus on what we do well and try to take away what our opponents want to do, then I think we will put ourselves in a great position to take the title.”
Once the season ends, Colie said Andre has no doubt where he wants to go next.
“Back home and to the NBA,” Colie said. “It’s that simple. That’s why he went overseas — to show he can be the best at the professional level. Now that he’s done that, he’d like another shot. His agent, Adam, keeps in contact with NBA teams constantly. He’s extremely aggressive. And if the NBA doesn’t work out again, there’s steps he can take to move up overseas.”
Pensack said both the NBA or a contract with a top-tier European league are definitely possibilities after Andre’s amazing rookie season in the DBL.
“There is a ton of interest in him right now. There’s still the objections about his size — he’s still under six feet, and there’s only five guys in the NBA right now under six feet,” Pensack said. “So we’re constantly fighting that — and it’s a battle that can be won. The fact he was able to go to a league and dominate and be the MVP in his first year has made a lot of people take notice.”
The DBL is considered a middle-tier European basketball league, and Andre likely could have his choice of which team to play for in Europe after this season if the NBA doesn’t work out.
But first things first.
“Well, first goal is to win the championship this year here in Holland. I’m trying to keep my focus there. Regarding NBA, I can only worry about what I can control. That’s going out, playing hard, playing with confidence and having fun. What happens after that is completely out of my hands,” Andre wrote. “I want to play this game as long as possible. I will be grateful for whatever opportunities lie ahead for me. Not many people get to experience the life of a professional athlete. I give thanks to God everyday for the many blessings and proceed on with a smile on my face.”