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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Young does it all for improved Trojan squad

    Young does it all for improved Trojan squad

    USC’s Nick Young isn’t exactly the easiest player on the court to stop.

    Nicknamed “”Noodles”” – probably for the way he slithers past defenders to the basket – Young is a 6-foot-6 wing who can play four positions.

    Against Arizona, Young not only drove by Wildcat defenders, but he single handedly broke down the scouting report, getting to the middle of the lane at will, against the behest of UA head coach Lute Olson. He dropped 30 points in USC’s 80-73 win over Arizona Jan. 18, 22 of them coming in the second half and he stands as the Trojans’ leading scorer at 17.1 points per game.

    “”He’s a good player; there’s not one thing he does,”” said forward Marcus Williams, who draws the assignment of guarding Young. “”He goes left, he goes right, he shoots 3s, he shoots pull ups.””

    Unlike the last loss to USC, when the Wildcats’ porous zone defense allowed Young space to maneuver, Young will have to operate against the length of Williams and Arizona’s man-to-man defense, which Olson has increasingly employed in the last four games.

    “”You have to focus a little bit more on your own because when your man goes for 30, you’re not going to be saying we played zone,”” Williams said. “”He had 30 on you, that’s what happened.””

    Since Young first arrived at USC to play under the tutelage of former coach Henry Bibby, things have changed for the better.

    The Trojans went 13-17 in his freshman year, then 17-13 in head coach Tim Floyd’s first season last year and now sit at 18-7, arriving in the national rankings after the win over Arizona.

    “”(The win over the Wildcats) helped our program, gave us some credibility, got us into the polls, and I think all of those things do add to players’ confidence,”” Floyd said.

    Young, who has also found the Trojans’ weight room, bulked up to 200 pounds and went from angel hair noodles to thick spaghetti.

    “”He’s always been a good offensive player,”” Floyd said. “”He was a good offensive player when he got here. I think he’s stronger. He’s gotten in the weight room, which has really helped him.

    “”I think he’s more confident because of his experience, not anything we have done, just the fact that he’s been out there and he’s in his third year.””

    Olson and the Wildcats felt the wrath of Young’s workouts – leaving Olson upset that Young took advantage of Arizona’s lack of attention to the scouting report.

    “”The breakdown that (assistant coach) Miles (Simon) has done of the tapes is really to make them aware of what we prepared for going in and what we didn’t do as good a job of as we should have,”” Olson said.

    Added Williams: “”I think things are easier said than done, but it hurts because if he drives the middle, he can not only shoot but can pass as well. He has multiple options.””

    One of Young’s options isGabe “”Smilin'”” Pruitt, who missed the first 11 games due to academic ineligibility but has returned to average 10.4 points per game.

    In the 70-65 loss to UCLA Feb. 7, Pruitt scored 16 points and six assists in 39 minutes.

    The junior guard, who has taken over point guard duties since he came back, has scored in double digits the last five games – but his average remains down six points from last year.

    Meanwhile, senior guard and USC’s second leading scorer Lodrick Stewart dealt with family issues this week.

    Stewart discovered his great-grandfather died and his mother was hospitalized in Mississippi for a nervous breakdown.

    Floyd said he talked with Stewart after he returned from the funeral and said Stewart seemed to be “”doing well.””

    With Stewart, Young and Pruitt roaming the perimeter, 21-year-old freshman Taj Gibson fills the interior. The Wildcats contained Gibson to nine points in the last meeting, but UA forward Ivan Radenovic said Gibson still brings trouble.

    “”He’s a guy that’s really physical inside and tries to score also and a great rebounder, so we have to be careful about him,”” he said.

    While the Wildcats focus on Gibson forced him into a below-average game, they may be smart to concentrate more on Young this time around.

    “”I think he’s a kid who doesn’t get influenced by crowds,”” Floyd said. “”He’s not intimidated when he goes into settings that are difficult just because he’s so self-confident in his offensive game.””

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