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Patric Young embraces his lengthy stay as Gator

ARLINGTON, Texas

The jump shot leaves his hand, and it is fair to say, the scouts do not hear music.

There is nothing gentle about the shot, nothing poetic. It is a homely thing, a line drive that may, at any moment, bend the front of the rim. No one calls it silky. No one calls it smooth.

Then there is his drive to the basket, which looks something like a bear searching for food. Patric Young doesn't razzle opponents, and he doesn't dazzle them. He is not a shake-and-bake player who breaks ankles on his way to the hoop. He is 6 feet 9, 240 pounds of muscle and sweat and force, and even brave men get out of his way.

Young is not quite as tall as a team might want its center to be. He is not a finesse guy. He may never score as much as you would like.

But if you are talking about the NBA, and you are talking about Patric Young, then there is this to say about that:

I'll take him.

With Young, the center for the Florida Gators, the conversation often begins with the things he cannot do. And it is true: Young is limited offensively. Aren't all of the Gators? Listen, and you will believe they are to be dismissed as future players for the European leagues.

Still, there are a great many skills that Young does bring to the picnic. He is a fierce defensive player. He rebounds as if the glass were his personal property. And he never takes a play off. Young attacks the game as if he were on fast-forward, never slowing down, never easing up.

Try to keep up, won't you?

For the UConn Huskies, that's the first order of business in tonight's national semifinal. They have to match Young's work ethic. Yeah, yeah, there is UConn point guard Shabazz Napier, who is a load to defend. And everyone pays attention to the great scorers.

But why does no one pay attention to basketball's stoppers? Why isn't Young considered a weapon for the way he plays in the paint? Why isn't anyone asking the UConn players about contending with Young?

"I don't think there is any question that he has a professional career playing," Florida coach Billy Donovan said Friday. "I believe he will be in the NBA. He's gotten so much better. He's worked extremely hard to get to where he's at right now.

"I'm proud of how consistent he's been. I think earlier in his career probably the one thing that was lacking was a level of consistency. He's gotten so much more consistent."

Hey, it isn't as if the NBA hasn't flirted with Young before. He could have come out as a freshman (a mock draft had him going 29th that year). He could have come out as a sophomore (another mock draft had him going 20th). He could have come out last year (a mock draft had him going 15th).

Every year, Young thought about it. And every year, the Jacksonville native decided he wanted more time as a Gator.

And so you wonder:

Was it worth it?

By now, Young could have had millions of dollars in the bank. He would be nearing his second pro contract. He could have been established.

"If we knew the future," he said, "if we could go into the past and see the future, then we would know where I would be now. We could compare the two and where I would be.

"I'm just living in the moment. I wouldn't want to be any other place than with my guys right now. I'm happy. I think I made the right choice in life. I feel like I'm playing some of the best ball of my life. Money isn't everything to me. I'm glad to be here with Coach Donovan, with my teammates, with these fans. I hope I can be remembered as a great Gator."

How much is being in the Final Four worth? How much do you take for winning 30 in a row? How much for being SEC defensive player of the year? How much for being beloved on campus? How much for growing up?

"The first thing I learned is that I'm not as good as I think I am," Young said, laughing. "Life is a process. There are ups and downs. To achieve your dreams, you have to stick through tough times. You fail when you stop fighting."

Young, the eternal Gator, hasn't stopped yet.

"I give him a lot of credit for making decisions regarding his career in terms of what he wanted to do," Donovan said. "I see a lot of kids make really poor decisions because they're influenced by the wrong people. Patric self-evaluated, really looked at his values and what was important to him.

"Certainly, we're happy he's come back every year. If he wanted to leave, I would have supported him. But the one thing I admire about Patric is he did what he thought was best for himself."

No, Young doesn't have stardom written all over him. He will probably be a ninth or 10th man for an NBA team. He won't score a lot, but he will play quality minutes. He will play well on defense.

And, forever, he will talk about these days, about these memories, about these Gators.

For Young, this trip will turn out to be priceless. What a value.

Patric Young embraces his lengthy stay as Gator 04/04/14 [Last modified: Saturday, April 5, 2014 12:34am]
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