From teacher to student, Joe Young eager to soak up NBA knowledge

Joe Young was in the living room of his parents home in Houston, Texas on draft night hoping to hear his name called. But he was unsure — and he had good reason to be.

The Pac-12 Player of the Year took part in the Pacers’ first pre-draft workout on May 18th, and against Cameron Payne, a mid-major player who’s stock was rising. But that was it.

“I tweaked my ankle here pretty bad,” Young said Tuesday. “I couldn’t even really move. My agent was like ‘You don’t even want to get in there and let them see how bad the ankle is.’ So they cut me off. I’m just blessed that the Indiana Pacers selected me.”

Young will wear No. 1.

Young will wear No. 1.

Young views that minor injury as a blessing in disguise. Still, like anyone, he was curious where he might fall.

Just before the Pacers were officially on the clock in the second round at 43, Young received a text message from his agent. “Winner,” it read.

Young, the son of 15-year pro Michael Young, wasn’t sure what that meant and he didn’t ask for clarification. Shortly after, he heard his name on ESPN’s broadcast — and he just sat there for a moment to soak it in.

“I loved it,” he said. “As soon as I heard the Indiana Pacers picked me, I just fell in love. I knew it was a good spot from the beginning.

“Indiana knew. They knew. I’m truly blessed that Indiana really likes me a lot and I like Indiana more than they like me.”

Pacers President Larry Bird on Young: “We liked Joe all year so we were surprised he’d be there but he’s there and we got him and now we got to get him integrated with what we’re going to do and hopefully he can get the ball up and down the court a little bit faster.”

[Joe Young learns he’s fifth cousins with Paul George]

In Young, the Pacers addressed an area of need. George Hill is the lone point guard on the payroll for next season and Young, who averaged 20.7 points as a senior at the University of Oregon, can play either guard spot. Cheaply, too.

Second rounders do not received guaranteed contracts like those selected 1-30, so he’ll have to prove to Pacers executives that he deserves a roster spot. His first opportunity will be this week at mini-camp and then in Summer League play.

“I’m just going to come in as a rookie and just play my role,” said Young. “Be the best I can be. Be at practice an hour early and leave an hour late. Just do the things I did to get here.

“Anything coach wants me to do, I could do. That’s part of being a professional.”

Young, 23, can see himself being a coach after his playing days are over. (He’s hoping that’s years away.) After he saw his teammates at Oregon struggled out of the gates, he began organizing what was called, “Joe’s Chalk Talk.” The six freshman had not adapted well to college basketball and the pace in which it was being played. So he called 8 a.m. meetings and he would write down five teams goals on a white dry erase board.

1) Get more aggressive, 2) Communicate, 3) Play Defense, 4) Offensive Execution, 5) Be Coachable.

After an hour of that, they moved to the court and teach them the basic principals of their offense and defense. Young cut it off after one week, but those freshman weren’t having it. They were calling him early in the morning and after a few weeks of having sessions, Young felt like they had got things clicking.

Young isn’t too concerned with what he cannot control, like his 6-foot-2 height. He can control his attitude, he can control his work ethic, he can control his defensive effort, and he can control his aggressiveness.

“I’m a big guy off of heart,” he said. “If you got a big heart, height doesn’t really matter. … Heart can take you a long way.”

The Pacers want to play at a quicker pace and they absolutely need more scoring. Young has a grounded mindset, like most rookies, and a willingness to contribute however he can.

He can get buckets if called upon, hence his nickname, “Joey Buckets.” Young’s trainer, Drew Hanlan, called him that in 2013, his first year at Oregon after transferring from the University of Houston, where his father was on staff. Two seasons in there was a staff shakeup and when they wanted to re-assign his dad, he declined and they both left.

Young, an attacker, is an excellent foul shooter, hitting on 92.5 percent of his attempts last season. He scored 30 points in his final collegiate game, a 72-65 loss to Wisconsin, who reached the NCAA Championship game.

Over the next two weeks, Young plans to soak in all he can from the other pros as well as the Pacers coaching staff. Longtime assistant Dan Burke will coach the Summer League team, where Young will be given plenty of time to display his talents.

He also looks forward to learning from starter George Hill, who also isn’t a true point guard.

“He’s been here before, he knows the game and the NBA process and speed of it,” Young said of Hill. “I’m going to be in practice just looking (to him). I’m here to learn. I’m trying to get better. But don’t teach me to much…”

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