- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Thaddeus Young entered a Georgia Tech assistant coach’s office last month just in time to hear a critique of his play by the broadcast crew who called the Yellow Jackets’ game against Miami a few days earlier.

It was Young’s first ACC game and less than a month after his college career began, but the discussion centered on his future. Already there was talk of his professional career, as if the 6-foot-8 forward’s future was preordained, and how a two-point showing in a league game was not a good impression to leave.

“Thaddeus asked a very simple question: ‘Why would they ask that?’ ” Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. ” ‘I’m a freshman trying to learn like everybody else. I’m trying to get better. I’m not out there every second thinking about going to the NBA.’ ”

It was a characteristic comment from the freshman, who seems unconcerned by external hype of his talents as Georgia Tech visits Maryland tonight. He’s honed his skills enough to lead the Yellow Jackets (13-5, 2-3 ACC) in scoring as Georgia Tech tries to return to the NCAA tournament after a one-year hiatus.

Yet the incessant one-and-done talk — a byproduct of the NBA’s new age limit rule that ensured former high school stars like Ohio State’s Greg Oden, Texas’ Kevin Durant and Young would attend college — remains.

“I think it’s pretty crazy,” Young said. “I’m in college now. I’ve been trying to enjoy college life. A lot of people have been getting it, but a lot of people haven’t.”

In some ways, it’s surprising they haven’t. Young’s basketball history is as atypical as his multifaceted game, including one unusual summer while he was in high school.

Most of the nation’s best potential recruits were preparing to go through the rigors of the offseason camps, essentially meat markets that attract college coaches and help players prove themselves against their peers.

Young wound up at a faraway camp too — except his was an academic enrichment camp at the Taft School in Watertown, Conn., suggested by both his coach and guidance counselor.

“Going to the camps, that was just a showcase. That’s just go out and show off your talent and show off what you can do,” Young said. “My folks thought it was better to take a summer off.”

So Young received a dose of literature rather than layups, trading an endless analysis of his game for a more laid-back approach befitting his personality. Then he discovered an added bonus when he returned home.

“A lot of guys were just tired from the summer,” Young said. “I was like ‘I’m ready to play now.’ ”

Young also was prepared for college, the Miami game notwithstanding. He’s reached double figures in scoring in all but two games and is coming off a 22-point performance at North Carolina on Saturday.

He flustered the Tar Heels during stretches in the second half, working inside for an easy basket one moment and smoothly hitting a 3-pointer on the next possession. Young’s size complements his comfort all over the floor and makes him even more dangerous.

“He’s interesting because he can certainly shoot the ball from the 3-point line,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “But he can also post you up if you try to put a little guy on him and just go really hard against him at the 3-point line.”

Young’s early returns — 14.5 points and 4.9 rebounds a game — provide a glimmer of his talent. He acknowledged there is much to improve, including basic skills he was never before asked to develop, such as setting screens.

Young frequently tells Hewitt how grateful he is for the NBA age-limit because it ensured he would have time to learn the game’s intricacies. Hewitt, in turn, is equally pleased with Young’s development.

“He just gets better every day,” Hewitt said. “Does he have some things to work on defensively? Absolutely, like most freshmen. Every coach would like to have a kid like this. Not only is he a talented player, but he really, sincerely wants to improve every time he steps out on the floor.”

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