The five-star recruits turning into Duke freshmen garner loads of attention, especially projected 2023 NBA first-round picks Dereck Lively and Dariq Whitehead.
One of those newcomers, though, warns not to overlook another player who’s new to the Blue Devils, but not to college basketball.
“Ryan Young,” Whitehead said, following one of Duke’s summer basketball practices in July.
While the Blue Devils added a trio of freshmen big men in 7-1 Lively, 6-11 Kyle Filipowski and 6-11 Christian Reeves, the 6-10, 240-pound Young brings something different to Jon Scheyer’s first roster as Duke’s head coach .
“Playing in the Big 10 for four years, three, really on the court,” Scheyer said. “He brings great experience, great value there.”
Young spent four seasons at Northwestern, graduating in June before enrolling in Duke’s Fuqua School of Business for graduate school. Following a redshirt season, he played the past three seasons for Chris Collins, the former Duke player and assistant coach who just completed his ninth season as Northwestern’s head coach.
But Young not only never played in the postseason, he was never part of a winning season with the Wildcats.
Duke, a Final Four team last spring and an NCAA tournament team in every season but one since 1995, offers something better.
“Everything about Duke made it the easy choice,” Young said. “But honestly, I really want to be part of a program that I could contribute to winning and have a positive impact. I’ve never been to a postseason, so that’s really exciting. I want to be able to help the team get to and play in the playoffs.”
Young projects as a veteran big man who slots as a reserve behind Lively and Filipowski, while Reeves takes a redshirt season. Another grad transfer, Theo John, filled that role last season behind 7-1 sophomore Mark Williams.
John played 11.3 minutes per game, contributing 2.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. Williams played 23.6 minutes per game, was named ACC defensive player of the year, and was the No. 15 overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets in June.
Lively figures to play the most minutes of any Duke big man this season. But there’s serious talk Young could play more than 11.3 minutes per game like John did.
His play in Duke’s summer practices, with hard-nosed rebounding, effective defense and nifty post moves, convinced Whitehead.
“I’m sure even the coaches didn’t realize he was that good,” Whitehead said.
At Northwestern, Young averaged 9.0 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while making 55.9% of his shots in 31 games last season.
He tallied 20 points in a pair of November games against High Point and Farleigh Dickinson. But, more impressively, he scored 17 points later that month against Georgia.
It got better in January, when Young produced 18 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals when Northwestern won 64-62 at Michigan State.
He excelled at drawing fouls, something that happened an average of 6.2 times per 40 minutes of play last season, per KenPom.com. Young was called for 4.5 fouls per 40 minutes.
Compare that to John, who committed 7.0 fouls per 40 minutes while being fouled 2.2 times per 40. Williams’ averages were 3.5 fouls committed and 3.0 fouls drawn.
Young made 67% of his free throws so he did a decent job of converting those fouls drawn into points.
Young could have transferred to another school where a starting role was more likely, or there was an easier path to more minutes per game. He chose Duke, he said, to play at the highest level, get a great education and contribute to a winning team.
Lively and Filipowski are in line to get more minutes per game, but Young could still give Duke a major boost off the bench, whether to simply spell them or if they get in foul trouble.
“I redshirted my freshman year,” he said. “So you know, I have kind of gone through the whole process of being a very young player. These guys are more competitive than I was as a freshmen, but that’s something I come in and help these guys learn, be a really good mentor but also have a positive effect on the court. Be somebody that can help win some games.”