“Here we go. Five seconds left in regulation. Young with three. Young FOR three. GOT IT!”- Dave Pasch, ESPN Announcer.
A truly amazing play. The final few seconds leading up to Joseph Young’s buzzer beater against Utah to advance Oregon to the Pac-12 Tournament Championship were unforgettable.
It’s been a couple weeks now, but I still find myself thinking about that moment. It seemed reckless at the time, as Young’s shot could have cleared NBA range by at least four feet. My heart sank after he let it go, but then, the ball sank as well — right through the bottom of the net. A swish for the ages, and a pivotal moment for the senior in terms of his long-term legacy in Eugene. Young’s contribution to the Ducks this season was monumental, and his leadership is something for which I will be forever grateful.
While the season ended on a low note with Oregon falling for the second straight year to Wisconsin in the 3rd round of the NCAA tournament, it was anything but fruitless. The Ducks were predicted to finish eighth in the PAC-12 but shocked the naysayers with a 26-10 season and 2nd place finish. A major upset over #9 Utah at home on senior night was the catalyst to their great run to end the year.
But where would the Ducks have been without their star? In a season initially clouded with doubt, Joseph Young took the Ducks to greater heights than ever imagined. Young’s dynamic scoring ability at times felt like our only hope on the offensive end. With the shot clock running down, there was no one you would rather see with the ball than Young. While Elgin Cook emerged as a threat, and Jalil Abdul-Bassit and Dillon Brooks provided some offensive power, Young was undoubtedly the standout.
Even in the tournament, he was the Ducks’ saving grace. After pouring in 27 points in Oregon’s win over Oklahoma State, Young dropped 30 for an encore against a stout Wisconsin defense, the only real reason the Ducks remained competitive in that game.
Young’s confidence with the ball is unrivaled. Many times I found myself wondering why in the world he would dribble through two defenders and hoist a spinning layup, but the ball went in… again and again. As a fan, I began to trust his game and believed he was going to score regardless of what the defense presented.
If genes are indicative of athleticism, then Joe Young fits the profile. Joseph’s father, Michael Young, was a part of one of the greatest college basketball teams ever. The 1982-1984 Houston Cougars, also known as “Phi Slama Jama” went to three straight final fours with their epic run n’ gun style of play led by hall of famers Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon, and of course, Michael Young. They practically invented the high-flying, fast break style of play that is so entertaining for Duck fans today.
While only playing two full seasons for the Ducks, Young is one of the most memorable players Oregon has ever seen. In his first season, he became an instant favorite among fans. His ability to score from anywhere on the floor led him to a team high 18.9 points per game (“ppg”). His shooter’s mentality and aggressive offensive approach helped the Ducks become a formidable opponent against any team. Even with other talents like stretch-forward Mike Moser, sharpshooter Jason Calliste, and athletic guards Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis, Young stole the spotlight as a junior.
This season, Young had to step up and take on an increased leadership role with a team full of transfers and incoming freshman. With one year under his belt in Eugene, Young had more experience than most of the squad, and clearly made it his team. Whether it was scoring 30 points and catapulting the Ducks to victory, giving an intense speech in the huddle, or pumping up the Pit Crew in the middle of a close game, Young was ready to do whatever he could to help himself, and Oregon, succeed.
And succeed he did. With his prowess on the hardwood, Young ended up winning the 2015 Pac-12 Player of the Year after averaging a conference-leading 20.7 ppg. He now holds the two-season record for points scored at Oregon with 1388, and also tied Terrell Brandon’s 1991 single season record for points scored, with 745.
After watching him for the past two years, it’s safe to say Joseph Young has solidified himself as an all-time Oregon great. It is certainly fair to put him in the same category as other Duck legends such as Terrell Brandon, Luke Ridnour, Luke Jackson, Fred Jones, and Aaron Brooks.
Young has the talent and the drive to become a solid NBA player and could contribute to any team lacking in shot creation and outside shooting. Whatever the future holds for Young, I would sincerely like to thank him for all he gave to the University of Oregon and wish him the best moving forward. It was a pleasure watching you, Mighty Joe.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline