By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
- One of Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury’s points of emphasis in advancing the Georgia Tech brand is the success and impact its student-athletes have 10 years after leaving the Institute.
Thaddeus Young ranks as one of those success stories -- even if his stay on The Flats was only one year.
Current Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner certainly thinks so.
“Thaddeus has always carried himself at a high level. He is a high-character person,” said Pastner. “I have the highest level of respect for him. He is a Georgia Tech great.”
Young has been great in his career calling, as well.
When the 29-year-old Memphis, Tenn., native takes the floor of Bankers Life Fieldhouse tonight for the Indiana Pacers it will mark the start of his 11th NBA season. That’s no small feat.
Then, again, Thaddeus Young is no small guy. He stands 6-8, 230, imposing enough, and plays a lot bigger.
But his biggest attribute may be the immeasurable size of his heart and his much more tangible generosity. Just ask kids in his home city, where the majority of his foundation, Young For Youth, does its work, or in Indianapolis, his current home-away-from-home, Philadelphia, his first professional city, where he played for seven seasons, Brooklyn, where he spent parts of two years, and even the Twin Cities in Minneapolis, where he played for a little more than a half.
Young has shown he doesn’t have to be at a place very long to make an impact on the court and in the local community.
Just look at what he accomplished in his one season at Georgia Tech.
He tied for the team lead in scoring (14.4 ppg), pulled down 4.9 rebounds (third), and was second in assists (2.0). He shot nearly 50 percent (49.8), 41.9 percent from three, actually outshooting sharpshooter Anthony Morrow (“He was hurt for half of the season or he might have beat me out,” he said, adding with a laugh, “I’m not going to hold it over him because then he’s going to want to have a shootout.”) and 74.3 from the line. In short, he did it all for a Jackets team that finished 20-12 (8-8 in ACC play), losing a double-overtime heartbreaker to Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC Tournament, then another tight contest to UNLV in the opening round of the NCA Tournament.
But the lasting legacy of the 2006-07 team was its home record. They went 16-1 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Their only loss came to No. 24 Virginia Tech. On the way, fans at the Thrillerdome saw the Jackets beat No. 11 Duke, No. 18 North Carolina and No. 25 Clemson. That record stood until last season, when Tech won 17 home games.
For Young, there was no sentimentality about seeing his team’s record erased from the record books.
“I didn’t think about it too much. You always want to see the program have success at all times,” he said. “In that situation, I’m just looking at it from a standpoint of us having a successful program.”
Young is very proud of the program and is especially pleased with the direction it’s headed under Pastner, who he remembers from high school.
“I’ve known Josh for a while, and he’s done a hell of a job coming in there and turning the program around in a short span of time,” he said. “Josh has been huge for the program. Being from Memphis, I see Josh all the time, so I do have a relationship with him. I’m very happy that he’s coaching the program, because I know he’s going to do right by the program.”
Pastner speaks as fondly of Young.
“I appreciate that comment by Thaddeus,” he said. “This program is about the former players and fans, so we want to make them all proud.”
Young’s play on the court and his character off it accomplishes that goal.
As an NBA player, he’s been as durable and dependable as they come. Young has played an average of 74 games per season and 30.6 minutes in those games. He’s averaged 13.6 points, on 50.0 percent shooting, 32.7 from three-point range, 67.9 from the line, with 5.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.4 steals, twice ranking in the NBA’s top 10 in that category. Last season he played in 74 games (all starts), averaged 11.0 points, while shooting a team-high 55.7 percent, and grabbing 6.1 rebounds, including a team-leading 1.8 off the offensive glass.
“I’m not overly great at one thing, but I’m very good at a lot of different things,” he said. “It’s hard work and dedication to the game. I think that’s the biggest thing that’s helped me in the League.”
The 12th overall pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in 2007 and an all-rookie second-teamer after that first year, Young now embraces the role of veteran leader -- a more important role than ever for the Pacers, with four-time All-Star Paul George gone. The Pacers have made the playoffs seven of the last eight years, but have been eliminated in the first round three straight seasons. Last year, they went out in four straight, but gave the eventual Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers what may have been their toughest series getting out of the East, as the four games were decided by a total of 16 points.
“It’s definitely a great role to be in where guys are leaning on you for your productivity and your wisdom and the years that you’ve put in and the time that you’ve put in,” he said. “I’m very excited to lead the guys, and I’m very excited to go out there and do the things that I can do and show what attributes that I bring to the table. It’s very, very important, not just for me, but for this team to go out there and continue to be a playoff team.”
Off the court, Young leads through his foundation. Young For Youth has been as diverse in its initiatives in being out front as a leader in the community as Young has been on the court. Started in 2011, the foundation is a team-effort, run by Young, his father, Felton, his business manager Kenneth Carter, and his best friend Norton Hurd, who also serves as Young for Youth AAU Program Athletic Director.
“We do a lot of different things,” he said. “From ACT prep for kids, finding tutors for some of our kids that are in our program, we have family day outings, we work with the Boys and Girls Clubs, we have turkey drives, back-to-school drives, ‘Cuts and Curls,’ where we give free haircuts or hairstyles to kids, toy drives. We’ve done so many different things, it’s crazy.
“I have my own AAU program,” he continued. “In the past five or six years, we have put about 50, 60 kids in college. We don’t just take the top 10 kids. We take kids that nobody’s even thought of and help them get major D-I scholarships. That’s just a few things that we’ve done so far.”
Young is especially proud of the recent renovation of the weight room at Mitchell Road High School, his alma mater -- a project that required raising in the neighborhood of $50,000-$60,000.
The foundation, like Young, is showing no sign of letting up.
“We’ve had a lot of different people that have wrapped their arms around what we try to do in the community,” he said. “They continue to work very, very hard each and every day to make sure we’re able to do more and more things.
“We’re working on a program now that we call, ‘Bad Schools,’ where we sponsor three or four different high schools each and every year because some of the schools are not able to buy football equipment or baseball equipment or basketball jerseys and shoes, stuff like that,” he added. “It’s worked out great. We continue to do a lot of different things in the community. We’re happy that we’re able to bless others.”