Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Kyle Young spent a lot of time on the ground during his football career at Ohio State.
Often the best thing he brings to the table are things that don’t appear in the primary rating box but are acknowledged in a locker room or movie session.
He does all the little things and the dirty work, bringing in an element that was clearly missing from this team. But as a talent, what his presence means in one game can be summed up in Friday’s 54-41 win over Loyola in the NCAA Championship.
With 9:12 hours left and the shot put down to 14 seconds, Young was matched with Marquis Kennedy in space. It’s a situation where one might think that the guard would be at an advantage over the slow, big guy. Except for Young, he has proven to be a versatile defender capable of guarding players of all shapes and sizes. Instead of giving up trying a good shot, Kennedy was forced to give up the ball. Once Kennedy retrieved it, his only option was to jump back on which Young had his hands on, violating the shot clock.
This is Kyle Young’s value and what OSU has been missing out on over the past two weeks.
“We’ve said it in every game he’s in, versatility,” Ohio State University coach Chris Holtman said. “It just offers a group, a lot of both ends and a lot of variety. I’ve been saying that for a couple of years really. So it turns out in a game like this.”
Young’s high drive is the reason why he’s played in starting minutes over the past four seasons, even if his offensive skills aren’t always at a high level. His style isn’t pretty, but he gets noticed every time you take it off him, which happens a lot due to his stamina.
His injuries ranged from leg fractures, concussion to the brain, and a defect in the vestibular system that affected his balance at the beginning of the current season. His challenge has always been to find a way to pass him through a season without his body breaking on him at some point, even if it means restricting him in practice. But it’s hard to do when the player’s method consistently puts him in harm’s way the most.
“He’s a leader,” said EJ Liddell of the Buckeyes family. “He plays hard. Everyone knows Kyle. He’s always in the play. That’s why he probably got hit in the head a lot. He just plays really hard. I love when he’s on the floor because he brings up the mentality of an older guy, just talking and just being active.”
Ohio State has done a solid job keeping him healthy this season. He then entered concussion protocol after losing to Nebraska on March 1. The show is back in the same spot it was a year ago, limping to the season-ending line as Young watched from the sidelines with no clear answer as to whether he’d be back. He took advantage of an extra year to be part of the post-season he stole from In 2021, and at least for a while, it looked like it would happen again.
“Even just putting my shirt on today, and taking some time to think about it because after the last time I was out of the house recently, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get back in,” Young said. “Just being able to wear the shirt today means a lot to me, and being able to go to war with these guys. So (I) definitely took a moment to think about it and be so grateful to be able to be there.”
Young missed games against Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State as OSU went 1-2 in this stretch as defensive effort was clearly missing. He returned against Loyola, resulting in the Buckeyes’ most impressive defensive performance of the season. The scoring efforts by owners Branham and Liddell are what will end up in the box, as they should. They are the most talented players on the team, and with them a chance would start a deep run in the NCAA Championship.
But neither of them can claim the title of the most valuable player. This description belongs to Young, and it is constantly shown whether he is healthy or not. His nine points, seven rebounds, blocks and steals aren’t the most impressive, but when combined with the number of times he’s ended up on the ground chasing a loose ball, they are just as important.
The Buckeyes’ win over Loyola was ugly and sloppy, and the offensive elite game at least came in. It was the type of game where you need someone with the energy to match a game played that way.
Young has always fitted that description, and without him last season, March at Ohio State University ended in an upset. Restoring that helped OSU keep the post-season active for at least one other game.
“It’s part of my game, to lie on the floor,” Young said. “It would have helped me influence the game. I had to do what I had to do tonight.”
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