Northwestern Men’s Basketball Player Preview 2021-22: Ryan Young
Red shirt junior; Center; 6-foot-10; Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; attended Catholic school in Pennsylvania, former three-star recruit to 247Sports
18.9 minutes per game, 7.8 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, 1.4 assists per game, 0.5 steals per game, 0.4 blocks per game, 57.4 FG%, 73, 8 FT% and 50.0 3P%.
Young’s 2020-21 season was a solid year for the second year. As Pete Nance’s backup center, Young got a decent crowd from the bank and made his presence known on the post. He led the team in FG% and made 57.4% of his shots, almost all of which came from within a few meters of the basket. Young used size and cunning mail movements to create isolated opportunities. That ability was largely the extent of his offensive, however, as Young only shot two threes and lacked a reliable jumper. He averaged 7.8 points per game and was an important asset to the team.
These numbers don’t tell the full story of Young’s play, however. He struggled with losing the ball, on average as many as assists (1.4 per game). Even if sales are to be expected in some cases, the problem persisted throughout. In addition, he had a free throw percentage of 73.8% in midfield. While that’s not inherently bad, increasing his consistency from the free-throw line could be a huge boost for the team this season as he hit the Wildcats the most fouls last year, averaging 4.6 per 40 minutes.
As a big player, Young’s strengths lie in color. The center can support defenders and finish effectively at the edge. His offensive rebound also shows a hunger that the Wildcats desperately need for the next season. Offensive boards are a phenomenon in basketball that helps both practically and mentally. Young is an archetype of the energetic banker. He knows his role well and will expand it earlier this year. It’s true that Young doesn’t have the best mobility, bet that as a center he won’t rule out threesomes on the wing. This means that he can compensate for mobility simply by the nature of his position. His foul-pulling talent is also a constant plus for the Wildcats.
Young certainly has his offensive skills, but his constant ball losses cannot be glossed over. As a center, a lot of its sales come from the double team in color. When Young was guarded by several defenders last year, he often fiddled with the ball when trying to escape the trap with a pass. This pattern can be seen with an equal ratio of assists to sales. If Young is able to develop a consistent kick-out pass on the wing, it could be huge for Northwestern. Young would add a layer to his offensive play while making the opposing defense question the dual team strategy.
In addition to passing, Young must at least create the illusion of a jump shot. While he doesn’t have to shoot at medium range to create an offensive, doing so would make him less predictable and harder to guard. In 2020, the opponents knew what to expect. Young would take it in the basket and try to outdo the defender with a pull on the post. Other teams knew what to expect and could plan accordingly.
In order for Young to take the next leap in development, he has to go from being a pure postal gamer to a medium-sized threat. Young makes 73.9% of his strokes on the edge and is generally successful, but there is an element of uncertainty that makes players great. Giannis Antetokounmpo illustrates this at the highest level. He was an athletic beast before developing a three-point shot, but the defenders knew how to protect him. As he refined his three-point shooting, the defense had to kick in the bow and hit him. Through this ability, it forces the defense to guard Antetokounmpo more closely. While Young is clearly not Giannis, the same concept applies to him. If the opposing defenses have to guard him outside of the color, it will blow the ground and open up far more options for the Northwest.