Kevin Young (AP)
The Loyola Marymount transfer was spending the weekend visiting his grandmother last May when Self called and expressed interest in having him take one of the scholarships vacated by the Morris twins' early departure. That was a life-altering conversation for Young, who until then planned to go to San Diego State after signing a non-binding financial-aid agreement with the Aztecs earlier in the year.
"Right after I got off the phone I pulled my mom and dad aside and said, 'I have a chance to play at Kansas,'" Young said Friday. "My mom was like, 'That's too far. I want to see you play every game.' But my dad understood how big an opportunity it was and how much tradition Kansas has."
That Young's parents both eventually supported his decision to break ties with San Diego State and head to Kansas instead had a major impact on both programs.
It gave the Jayhawks an athletic, high-energy big man capable of spelling starters Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey for 15 minutes a night, and providing defense and rebounding. It also left San Diego State hardly any time to find a suitable replacement, a difficult blow for an Aztecs team that already lacked size and depth in its frontcourt after the departure of Malcolm Thomas and Kawhi Leonard.
Self has insisted that Young had already decided not to honor his commitment to San Diego State as a result of assistant coach Justin Hutson leaving for UNLV, but Aztecs coach Steve Fisher was still livid about the situation. Said Fisher to the San Diego Union-Tribune last June: "I'm disappointed that a young man who I am very fond of would not feel an obligation to honor an eight-month commitment. And I'm equally disappointed in a program and coach I'm very fond of to pursue a player who made an eight-month commitment."
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The choice to come to Kansas wasn't that difficult for Young because he couldn't resist the opportunity to play on a "bigger stage." Nonetheless, he admits the ensuing conversation with the San Diego State staff was one of the most difficult of his life.
"It was real tough," Young said. "I think they felt like I let them down a lot, and I understand why because of the recruitment process. I didn't give them an opportunity to go and get other players. They put a lot of time into recruiting me and I'm kind of sorry for that, but at the end of the day, I had to look at what was going to benefit me."
Young's versatility and defensive prowess will be key for Kansas in Saturday's Final Four matchup with Ohio State. Whereas DeShaun Thomas' ability to play on the perimeter makes him a difficult matchup for Robinson or Withey, Young is more capable of checking him.
The first time Kansas faced Ohio State, Young had 14 points and four rebounds in 24 minutes. He'd love to duplicate that performance Saturday, but even if he plays only a small role, he's still very happy to be a Jayhawk.
Said Young with a grin, "Things couldn't have turned out much better for me."
- San Diego State