Saturday, March 4, 2017

ODU's Destinee Young an under-the-radar star

When it comes to Old Dominion's Destinee Young, you pretty much know what you're going to get.

You just may not realize how much you're actually getting.

In Thursday night's 19-point romp over UTEP, for example, we couldn't stop marveling at Jennie Simms' feathery floaters and Ticha-esque no-look dimes en route to her 30-point, 7-assist night. And we had no quarrel with the ODU Radio Network's decision to acknowledge the enhanced contributions of Ashley Jackson (12 points, six rebounds, four assists) and tab her the "Star of the Game."

It took scanning the box score to realize that Young had flirted with a triple-double before "settling" for 14 points, 14 rebounds and seven (!) blocks.

We doubt any of this fazed Young, who generally treats bids for personal glory the way she did those seven UTEP shots. So it's been kind of an under-the-radar career for Young, Young, the rugged 6-1 (more or less) rebounding machine who with little fanfare has quietly churned out boards numbers that place her alongside some of the greats in Lady Monarchs history.

Did you know, for instance, that Young's current average of 11.0 rebounds per game is the highest by a Lady Monarch in 20 years, since Nyree Roberts hauled down 12.0 per night in 1997-98? Or that Young recently passed the great Nancy Lieberman for seventh on the all-time ODU list for rebounds by a senior (307)? Or that she needs just 12 more to vault past Celeste Hill (311) and Kelly Lyons (318) and into the top five?

Now, we certainly didn't get any of these stats from Young, who while unfailingly polite turns out to be as poor at cataloging her highlight reel as she is great at filling it up.

Remember that amazing spin move for a layup you pulled off earlier in the season?

"Uh, no, not really. I’m glad it amazed you, though.”

How about your first game as a Lady Monarch. Had to be emotional. What stands out as you look back?

"Sorry, I don't remember it."

It's a good thing this biology major, who is on track to graduate in May, has her heart set on becoming a dentist. She has no future in sports information.

Then again, to Young, all this personal trivia is, well trivial.

"At the end of the day, it's all about winning the game, right?" Young said.

Let the record show that Young has no problem walking the walk to put teeth in such talk. Two weeks ago at Charlotte, Young appeared to be on track for a big offensive night after scoring eight points in the opening three minutes. But her greatest contribution came in the second half, when the post anchor slid out to the perimeter and slapped a defensive glove on Charlotte’s versatile Grace Hunter, who had lit up ODU in the opening 20 minutes. Young scored just one point in the second half of the Lady Monarchs’ 72-70 victory, But because of the work she did in keeping Hunter in check, Lady Monarchs assistant Jim Corrigan called it the best one-point half he’d ever seen.

“Yeah, I think I heard that,” Young said with a smile.

It’s also not a coincidence that probably Young’s most productive statistical performance - 28 points and 15 rebounds last year against Howard - came in a game where Simms and starting center Ije Ajemba were unavailable. Granted, Howard didn’t exactly have Anthony Davis and Boogie Cousins defending the low post. But hey, 28 and 15 is 28 and 15.

“Being a leader, I just felt it was on me to step up.” Young said.

This selfless, do-whatever-it-takes approach has been a trademark of Young's play ever since she arrived from the northwest suburbs of Chicago four years ago. Although a solid contributor as a freshman, Young made it clear she didn't leave Illinois to merely be solid. So during the ensuing offseason, Young threw herself into CrossFit training and intense basketball workouts. She also switched to an ultra-healthy diet, which in Young's case meant making the ultimate sacrifice for a college student - giving up Chipotle.

"I love Chipotle," Young said. "But I had to get right."

The payoff came that fall when a learner, more confident Young re-introduced herself to Old Dominion. Before the season began, Young's teammates voted her a captain, a honor rarely bestowed upon a sophomore. By early December, Young had cracked the first five. She's been one of the team's on-court mainstays and locker room leaders ever since.

Her development continued to the point where now she's making her mark on the national scene. Young is currently one of only 25 players in Division I to average a double-double (11.3 points, 11.0 rebounds). The rebounding average leads Conference USA and ranks ninth in Division I. And no one in C-USA and only 15 D-I players nationally have more than Young's 15 double-doubles.

No wonder Young's 14 and 14 against UTEP the other night went down so quietly - for her, it's only a couple ticks better than a routine night.

That said, there’s nothing routine about Young’s pursuit of a missed shot. Although somewhat undersized for a post player, she excels at positioning herself for rebounds, has nice hops and applies such a vise-like grip you almost feel sorry for the basketball.

In addition, since Young brings a relentless "that ball is mine" mentality to the boards, there's risk involved in battling her for a carom - be you friend or foe.

"I stiff-armed AJ (Jackson) last game," Young said sheepishly. "I thought she was on the other team. She wasn't."

Old Dominion fans will get a final time to appreciate Young’s understated excellence - and funky, World B. Free-style overhead jump shot - Saturday when the Lady Monarchs host UTSA in their “Senior Day” regular season finale. The game will also be the Constant Center curtain call for:

Annika Holopainen, the Finland native-turned fitness queen who started out in November in a reserve role but changed the trajectory of her campaign by shedding 13 pounds in the middle of the season and blossoming into a key contributor. Old Dominion has gone 8-3 since the now-lean Holopainen injected herself into the starting five;

Rhaven Kemp, the ultra-athletic reserve point guard, on-the-ball defensive pest and lively locker room presence - Young called her one of the funniest players on what is apparently a team of comedians behind closed doors.

"You never know what she's going to say," Young said.

And of course, the incandescent Simms, who these days seemingly reaches a fresh milestone with each dribble.

Odds are that today, Simms will produce her typical share of “wow” moves. Holopainen will deliver a spectacular spectacular finisher around the rim, and Kemp will produce at least one ankle-breaking crossover or “where’d-that-come-from” 3-pointer.

But here’s hoping fans pay extra attention as Young efficiently goes about her business.

Because while not a lot has been said about it, all season long that business has been booming.

No comments:

Post a Comment