Kyle Young will always do Kyle Young Things.
Those offensive rebounds most people don’t grab. The hustle plays most people won’t make. The dunks and alley-oops most people can’t finish. The endless tank of energy most people aren’t able to pull from.
All of those are certified Kyle Young Things, and in order for Ohio State to compete for a Big Ten championship and advance in the NCAA tournament in the spring, it’ll need him to continue doing what made him such an impactful forward the past two seasons.
But the Buckeyes are seeking more from him this year. More on the offensive end, where he’s looking to expand his shooting range, and more on the defensive end, where he has to replace Kaleb Wesson as the big man in the middle.
Fourth-year head coach Chris Holtmann, who’s had Young on his roster for every Ohio State game he has coached, challenged him to take a step forward as a senior expected to start as an undersized center.
“He's got to take a jump for us offensively,” Holtmann said last week. “I'm not saying he's got to double his output, but it's got to be a significant number increase for us to be good. And then he's also got to provide some of his defensive physicality. Albeit he's undersized, but he's definitely going to have to provide that for this group. The defensive side, right now, is my biggest overall concern with our group. We have to continue to get better in that area.”
The offensive jump, Holtmann believes, will come as an outside shooter.
Young, to put it mildly, hasn’t done much to raise any eyebrows from behind the 3-point arc. He hit two triples as a junior, one as a sophomore and one as a freshman. Across the three years, he drained only 4-of-29 3-pointers (13.8 percent). Not exactly 3-point marksman numbers.
Throughout the offseason, however, Holtmann has referenced Young’s shot-making as a legitimate positive that he thinks will continue into the season. In the modern era, it’s important anytime somebody stretches out their shooting range, but that’s especially the case for an Ohio State team that lost three players who hit at least 40 percent of their 3-pointers last season – Kaleb Wesson, Andre Wesson and DJ Carton – along with Luther Muhammad who was a 37.5-percent 3-point shooter from behind the arc as a freshman.
The frontcourt now consists of three returners – E.J. Liddell, Ibrahima Diallo and Young – who have never shot better than 20 percent from 3-point range in a season, a freshman not known for his outside stroke (Zed Key) and 6-foot-8 forward Seth Towns who’ll add the important element of a 3-point shot at some point but won’t be healthy enough to play for over a month. The Buckeyes built last year’s offense around a 14-point-a-game scoring center with a 42.5-percent 3-point shot.
Young, who averaged 7.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in 22.8 minutes per game last year, doesn’t need to – and won’t – be Kaleb Wesson 2.0. But adding a respectable 3-point jump shot could further spread out the defense and open up opportunities for others to operate with more room inside the arc.
“Kyle Young has shot the ball exceptionally well,” Holtmann said in early October. “Everything we've evaluated this summer, everything we've charted, and we chart every shooting drill, and he has been top-four on our team in 3-point shooting.”
The head coach followed those comments up with more encouraging words last week.
“He's really been able to catch and shoot for us and space,” Holtmann said on Wednesday. “He doesn't have quite the touch that Kaleb does. I'm not saying that. But I do anticipate that he's going to shoot more 3s than what he has ever done, probably by a significant margin. He's proven time and again that he's capable of doing that.”
Just hasn’t proven that in a game...yet.
Young’s outside jumper won’t be a threat that impacts how teams defend the Buckeyes until opposing teams see it as such. After hitting four triples in three years, he’ll have to prove it early in the upcoming season.
The 6-foot-8 forward will also have to prove that he can become the interior defensive presence Ohio State will ask him to be.
The official roster lists Young at 225 pounds. He confirmed he weighs about that much last month. In a league that lost several impactful centers after last season but still features Iowa’s Luka Garza, Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn and Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis, Young will be lacking in both the height and weight categories in most matchups as a center. Yet with a true freshman (Key) and sophomore who played sparingly last season (Diallo) as the only other who can play center, Young will get his number called for some matchups that’ll inevitably leave him at a physical disadvantage.
“I cut off a lot of body fat, too, and gained more muscle,” Young said. “That's something I was working on in the offseason. Playing in the post is something I've been doing and I like to do, so I'm just going to keep doing that and get used to playing against guys that have more weight on me. I just have to use my quickness and that aspect and try to use my other attributes to my advantage.”
Kyle Young will always be Kyle Young. He’ll always do Kyle Young Things.
Holtmann, though, wants more from him. No, he and Ohio State need more from him. More as a scoring threat and more as a defensive presence on the interior.
In two or so weeks, the Buckeyes will learn what they have in the latest version of Young, who’s entering possibly his last season at Ohio State.