Former Gator Patric Young hopeful to hear name called in draft

One of Patric Young's best qualities is that he is essentially a finished project.

Kim Klement

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It was late Wednesday night and Patric Young was home.

After six weeks of unfamiliar airports, unfamiliar cities and unfamiliar beds, Young was pleased to be back in Jacksonville on the eve of one of the biggest days of his life.

The NBA draft is tonight (7:30, ESPN) and Young is projected as a late first-round, early second-round pick. He will spend draft night mixing in the company of family and friends at Latitude 30, a local restaurant/entertainment complex.

At some point those patrons not in Young’s party can expect cheers to engulf the place. Young’s stock improved with a strong showing at the NBA combine in Chicago last month, where he bench pressed 185 pounds 25 consecutive times (two short of the record) and impressed scouts with his solid play.

"I want a lot of people who have been through this journey with me to celebrate this great day with me," said the 22-year-old Young, who averaged 11 points and 6.2 rebounds to help Florida reach the Final Four his senior season.

Since then he has crisscrossed the country to work out for 13 NBA teams, the tryout tour’s final performance on Tuesday in Detroit. Young’s itinerary also included stops in New York, Phoenix, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Utah, Dallas, Minnesota, Houston, Los Angeles (Clippers) and Boston.

The other day in Boston, as Young exited a cab at Logan International Airport, he ran into former UF star Joakim Noah, who was recently named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in his seventh season with the Bulls.

Like Noah, Young is known for his defense and energetic approach to the game. However, he worked hard to improve other aspects of his game during pre-draft workouts at the IMG Academy in Bradenton.

Combine that with Young’s career at Florida playing against some of the country’s best competition under the tutelage of Gators coach Billy Donovan — Donovan was recently named the best college coach at developing players for the pros in an survey of NBA personnel — and Young received a lot of positive feedback from teams heading into the draft.

Young’s decison to play four years at UF amid speculation each year that he would enter the draft proved a wise one.

Moving forward

"A lot of these teams I met with, they like the fact that I’m a finished guy," Young said. "They think that I’m going to come in with maturity and some humility and understanding of my role a lot better right away. [Staying in school] hasn’t hurt me at all.

"Every time I stepped on the court during these workouts I came in with the mindset that I need to be a low-maintenance guy that is just going to work hard and turn heads."

While Young’s landing spot in the draft varies according to which mock draft you review, writer Chad Ford has Young going to the Spurs with the final pick of the first round.

"He does all the little things, rebounds, defends and uses his toughness to get buckets," Ford wrote. "He won’t do anything spectacular, but is NBA ready right now."

Meanwhile, has Young going 42nd overall to Houston in the second round.

Young worked out twice for the Knicks — once in Chicago at the combine and once in New York, where he was joined by former Gators teammate Scottie Wilbekin. He said new Knicks president Phil Jackson expressed interest and on Wednesday night, the Knicks traded center Tyson Chandler and guard Raymond Felton to Dallas for four players (highlighted by point guard Jose Calderon) and two second-round draft picks — Nos. 34 and 51.

Prior to the trade the Knicks did not have a selection in this year’s draft.

What would make a good draft night in Young’s view?

"I would like a nice surprise," he said. "Somewhere from 25 to 30 would be nice, but I know that I might have to wait a little longer. I think a lot of teams have been surprised by how skilled I am, how well I’ve been able to shoot the ball and score, and how well I understand the game.

"I’m just really excited for whatever system I get to. I think whatever team takes me is getting a steal because I know I’m going to be a guy that can do a lot more than what people expect of me."

While Young is expected to be the 12th Florida player since 2007 to get drafted, Wilbekin and forward Casey Prather also have NBA dreams. The senior trio, along with fellow senior forward Will Yeguete, teamed to lead the Gators to one of the most memorable seasons in school history last season.

Florida won a school-record 30 consecutive games on the way to the program’s fifth Final Four appearance. Wilbekin was named SEC Player of the Year.

"I’m hoping that somebody will take a chance on him and Casey Prather," Young said. "They are NBA players."

As Young prepared for the long wait until tonight’s draft, he plans to stay busy until his name his called. Part of that plan is to watch the USA-Germany match this afternoon in the World Cup.

Afterward, he will get ready to fulfill a dream. The former baseball player said he didn’t truly start thinking about a potential NBA career until his senior season of high school when a scholarship to Florida became a reality.

He was 15 seven years ago when Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green and Chris Richard were all selected.

He is ready to experience the magic of draft day like they did. He put in the work. Now comes the reward.

"I’ve considered myself a pro after my last game at Florida," he said. "I had to carry myself on the court and away from the court in a way that is respectable and responsible. The traveling, the endless hours, the quick turnarounds … it was pretty hectic.

"I’m glad it’s a one-time experience but I’m blessed to be able to do it."