Adam Jardy|Buckeye Xtra
First things first: Kyle Young is not broken, nor has he ever been.
This isthe week of senior day for theOhio State mens basketball team, and Youngs mother, Mary, is enjoying a conversation about her youngest child and all the things that have endeared him to Buckeyes fans. But she wants to make one thing clear.
We need to stop talking about him like hes broken, she says.
Yes, hes dealt with his share of injuries during his time at Ohio State. But its not the injuries, or the lows, that define what Young has been about for the Buckeyes.
As he approaches Saturday's senior day game against Illinois, hes been defined by the toughness and heart that have carried him from tragedy to glory.
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The arc of Youngs college career takes a jarring and emotional loss about a month before his junior season at Massillon Jackson High School. His father, Mark, succumbed to a battle with multiple sclerosis that lasted nearly 30 years and confined him to a wheelchair for his youngest sons entire life.
Such adevastating loss could have derailed the future plans for a 17-year-old rising basketball star, but thats not what Jackson coach Tim Debevec saw.
Hes been through a lot, something that hes handled pretty well for a young man that lost his father at a young age, Debevec said. He grew up quick.
"Not a lot of people go through that, and it was tough for him, but he handled it professionally and he still set his goals high about winning a state championship and being a good player. He worked hard at that.
As Young was grieving the loss of his father, he was in the midst of a recruitment that had him debating a choice between Butler and a coaching staff he was growing closer with and Ohio State, which was only a two-hour drive away.
The Bulldogs won that battle thanks to the special relationships coach Chris Holtmann and assistant Ryan Pedon built with Young and his family.
They made it very personal, Mary Young said. I would get little texts from Ryan. I would get mail sent to us. (We) never got any of that stamped stuff from Butler. Everything was personalized, like a handwritten note.
With rules and regulations they could not even come to the calling hours. I know that really hurt Ryan and Chris, because they really wanted to be there for me and for Kyle and my other kids.
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It wasnt just basketball that bonded KyleYoung, Holtmann and his staff. There also were conversations during that formative time that intertwined their futures, leading Young to commit to Butler and then follow the coaches to Ohio State when Holtmann was hired to replace Thad Matta.
They were incredible, calling to check up on my family, calling to check up on me, Young said. Through the recruiting process, sometimes we didnt even really talk about basketball, which was nice. They were incredible.
The changes all happened pretty fast, but the Young family made time for one bonding trip. Four days before Kylesigned with Ohio State and one week before his arrival on campus, Mary and thethree Young children allgot tattoos reading YoungStrong.
Kyles is on his left bicep. Since then, he has added more, including a cross on his back with the words Family Forever at the top.
Its an outward sign of the internal emotions Young has felt for the past four years.
Once Young was on campus at Ohio State, Holtmann held an informal news conference roughly a month after getting the job. Inside a conference room at Value City Arena, he touched on all the duties that come with trying to establish a new regime, from the need to hire a new strength and conditioning coach to what he thought of the likes of current players, includingpoint guards CJ Jackson and Braxton Beverly.
He also shareda specific vision for what a player like Young would mean to Ohio State fans who, he said, would love the type of gritty, four-year player they were getting in the Canton native.
I just love him as a kid, Holtmann said this season. I love him as a player. Hes been so important to our program. Its hard to overstate how important he was in adding on the fly.
The addition almost didnt stick. That first summer, Young was so homesick that he considered dropping out, moving home and getting a job. His mom, realizing this, reached out to the coaches to solicit their help. Each of the coaches spent extra time with the freshman, taking him out for meals and strengthening the bonds that would keep him enrolled.
Although he still goes home a lot, it got better.
After that first year, it went away, Mary Young said. Dont get me wrong: he still literally, he checks in on me every day. He checks in to see that Im doing OK and what Im doing and just keeps tabs, which is totally awesome.
The journey could have gone any number of different ways. Had Holtmann remained at Butler, its hard to imagine how Young would have handled four years of being five hours away from home. Then again, had his father not passed when he did, its hard to envision how the relationship with Holtmann might have been altered.
To Mary Young, everything transpired the way it was supposed to.
Im thinking Mark had something to do with that, because Ill tell you it was definitely a dream come true, she said. Kyle always loved Ohio State. It was a total blessing (to end up there), honestly.
When he is announced as a starter Saturday afternoon, possibly for the last time at Value City Arena, Young will continue the practice he began in high school. Hell make the sign of the cross, kiss his right hand and point to the sky, eyes fixed upward.
Its my way of pointing up to my dad and knowing hes watching over me and just recognizing him, he said.
No doubt he sees.
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)
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