Photo: File Photo
Many children dream of becoming professional athletes, but sometimes that road isn’t always a direct route to the pros. Drake basketball hero Josh Young’s dream is in the works. Young has had a wild year since graduating from Drake last spring.
“I knew for sure that I wanted to play for as long as I could, especially coming right out of college, but I didn’t know exactly where that would be,” he said.
Young became one of the greatest and most loved players in Drake history. He amassed a school record 1,789 points and was selected to the All-Missouri Valley Conference team three times.He also helped the stellar 2007-2008 team achieve a 28-5 record, win the MVC regular season and tournament titles, and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. On that team he was the leading scorer averaging 18.5 points per game. With all of the honors, he remained a humble leader and struck current head coach Mark Phelps as a leader from the moment he met him.
“I knew immediately after meeting Josh that he was a special young man, not just a special player but a really unique and gifted person, talented in many ways, intelligent and very conscientious,” Phelps said. “At the same time, he had a real resolve and a toughness to be the best he could be on the court.”
That toughness led Young leave to his hometown of Lawton, Okla., after his senior season to pursue a professional career. Waiting and working through the summer and fall, Young and his agent began to hash out ideas of where he could play. Last November, Young was drafted in the third round of the NBA D-League by the Austin Toros. The Toros are a part of the San Antonio Spurs organization.
“I went down there and went to training camp, but I guess they felt like the people they had last year were the ones they were going to go with. That was the end of my short stint in the D-League,” Young said.
After returning home for less than a month, his agent got in touch with a basketball club in Germany known as Bayer “Giants” Leverkusen, located in Leverkusen, Germany. The club offered him a contract, and he signed a one-year deal with the Pro B League team. The season was at its midpoint, so he rushed to join his new squad.
“It was about two days after signing with them I was on a plane to come to Germany, so I didn’t have much time to say bye to everyone,” Young said.
First, Young had to settle in his new environment. In Leverkusen, he had his own apartment and a car, but his days were filled with basketball..
“That’s my job now, I play basketball, so it’s kind of surreal for me,” Young said. “Any time you can do something that you love, you don’t have to really consider it like a job, though.”
Young proved irreplaceable to Leverkusen as it closed out the regular season. Eight of the 12 teams from each division reach the league’s playoffs. With his team on the brink of elimination, Young came up huge down the stretch. Young was selected as the February player of the month for the entire league.
Early in the month, he poured in a staggering 43 points against BSV Wulfen. Then when playoff crunch-time came, he averaged 26 points per game in the Giants’ last four wins to earn a playoff bid.
Despite his success in Europe, Young said being away from his family has been hard. He regularly uses Skype to communicate with friends and family. It has made him realize how much he misses his companions back home.
“It’s really easy to take for granted people that you love … because you kind of get into this level of comfortableness,” Young said. “Being overseas and away from my family, it really has given me a greater appreciation for them, with all of their support and love.”
Young’s contract has expired, and he will return home until he is signed by a new team and continues his dream of playing professional basketball.
“Every kid that plays basketball dreams to play in the NBA. I don’t think that anyone would have told you they want to play overseas growing up,” Young said. “But with that being said, being here and having the chance to live abroad for a little bit, it is actually something that I could see myself doing in the future.”
Passing the torch
After Josh Young graduated last spring following a historic Drake career, freshman Rayvonte Rice is well on his way to filling the school’s all-time leading scorer’s shoes. Here is a look at both players’ first seasons in Bulldog blue and white. In Young’s sophomore year, Drake won the MVC regular season and tournament titles to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. Hopefully Rice can match that feat in his second season.
Freshman Stats (2006-07)
26.3 minutes per game
Freshman Stats (2010-11)
30.1 minutes per game