It’s often said that injuries are a part of professional sports. Some injuries are more untimely than others, but the reality is that there is no “good” time to endure an injury. Players are left wondering if they’ll ever to return to full strength and play at a high level again.
Patric Young was playing some of the best basketball of his career last season when he suffered a torn ACL while with Olympiacos in Greece. Young was just 10 games into the season when a player collided into his left knee, sending him crashing to the court. His season was over just as it was getting underway.
Advances have been made in recent years to improve the recovery time with ACL surgery. It’s still tough to gauge how a player will return from an injury inside of the knee. Some players have been able to come back at 100 percent as if the injury never occurred, while others have endured further complications down the line.
As devastating as an ACL injury can be, it’s important for guys to maintain a positive mindset during the rehabilitation process. It can be a very tough road back from such an injury, but players know that it can be done. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson suffered an ACL tear during the 2011 season and returned the following campaign and finished eight yards short of setting the NFL record for most rushing yards in a season.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from following Young on social media or talking to him in person is that he has a very positive attitude and demeanor. It’d be very reasonable to think that an ACL injury could impact a player in a negative way, but he maintains a great outlook on his current situation and his road back.
“The thing with having an injury like this is people don’t tell you – you already have free time as a basketball player, but you have so much more free time with an injury,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “Having people around you to keep you occupied, help you stay busy, stay positive through all of the process is everything. If you’re just thinking about things you have no control over, it’s going to eat you alive. You can’t allow that to affect the present moment that you can enjoy with your friends and family and people around you.”
The former University of Florida center was producing at a very high level prior to his injury. In 10 games in Greece, Young was averaging 9.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. He was named the Euroleague Week 1 Most Valuable Player after recording 16 points, six rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals.
Perhaps the biggest facet of his game that was on display was his shot-blocking ability. Through his 10 games played for Olympiacos, he recorded 16 blocks. Former sixth overall pick Ekpe Udoh set the Euroleague record for most blocks in a season at 61, a mark that Young could have flirted with had he stayed healthy.
Admittedly, there was a bit of a learning curve for Young as he transitioned to his first season with Olympiacos. He struggled at first as he got used to playing with a new group of teammates. Things like when to pick, when to roll and how to play pick-and-roll defense took time to figure out. He applied the things he learned from Billy Donovan at Florida to get on track in Greece and finally it began clicking for him.
“What I was able to do is just realize that, ‘Pat, you’re stronger than 95 percent of everyone in this league even though you’re an undersized center.’ What I was able to do is just kill people with my energy, run the floor [and] seal guys under the basket,” Young said. “I was averaging 2.6 blocks a game [in the Euroleague] as well, which is something that I’ve never been able to do in my career as far as maintaining that. Defensively, in the pick-and-roll situation and post defense, guys weren’t scoring on me so I was able to be an anchor for my team while I was on the court.”
Young has spent much of the summer back in Florida, training and continuing his rehab process. He’s mixed in trips back to his hometown of Jacksonville, returned back to Gainesville to check in on his former school and spent the past several weeks in Orlando training at TNT Elite Hoops. Wherever he’s at, he still manages to hit the weight room and stay on a pretty rigorous training schedule.
“I just love working out,” Young said. “The number one thing that I’ve learned growing up is that you can have talent, but if you don’t have a work ethic to back up that talent, it’ll only get you so far. Same with being an athlete coming to basketball; you can be an athlete in basketball and jump really high and do certain things really well or hustle, but it’s only a certain small niche of guys that can do that.
“At the top level, you need to be able to make some hook shots, be confident with the ball in your hands that you’re not going to turn it over [and] things like that. It’s important that I can build my confidence outside of just being an athlete so if that’s taken away from me, I can bring something else to the game.”
Following his four years at Florida, Young went undrafted in 2014. He played on the New Orleans Pelicans’ Summer League team that year in Las Vegas and signed a two-year contract shortly after. He went through training camp with the Pelicans and was cut shortly after the season started.
He played the rest of that season for Galatasaray in Turkey with the hope of returning to the NBA. Young averaged 9.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and .8 blocks per game in Turkey. He was set to play last year for the Los Angeles Clippers in Summer League, but was offered a two-year, $1.6 million contract by Olympiacos.
The guaranteed contract in Greece appealed to Young the most. He would have had to grind his way through Summer League, training camp and the preseason with the Clippers to have a chance in the NBA. The chances of landing a guaranteed contract in the NBA were much lower than overseas, so Young wanted to play overseas and use that as an avenue to return to the NBA.
Players are just one injury away from losing the ability to make a living, so Young went to Greece. As his ACL injury proved, anything can happen and now playing in Greece (and earning that guaranteed money) looks like a great decision.
Young is hoping that a successful season in Greece can be what’s needed to get him back in the NBA. He hopes to be a player who can come in and impact games with his ability to make hustle plays and dominate defensively in the paint. At 6’10 and 247 pounds, Young has great agility and quickness for his size, and he boasts a 7’1 wingspan.
Despite the league’s movement to more small-ball, big men in the NBA are still needed. We saw the demand this summer in free agency for big men, as players like Bismack Biyombo, Timofey Mozgov, Ian Mahinmi and Miles Plumlee were all paid handsomely even though this group of players may not be the prototypical fit best suited for the pace-and-space style that many NBA teams are using.
Most players, Young included, are using what happened this summer in free agency as motivation to get to the NBA. As he is set to enter the final year of his contract with Olympiacos this season, he wants to showcase his complete skill set and take his game to another level to have an opportunity to get back into the NBA.
“I’m not even going to say any names, you guys see the contracts that are being signed for the sub-par production of some players,” Young said. “If I can take care of my business and do my job… I pray that I can stay healthy, I have no control over that. If I can finish out a full season healthy in Europe and hopefully bring Olympiacos to the championship, then hopefully it can do me wonders to come back to the NBA.”
In the meantime, Young is busy planning the First Annual Patric Young Charity Golf Classic on August 6 in Gainesville to benefit the Stop Children’s Cancer Foundation. The organization has raised more than $6 million to help fund research at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine.
Young has donated his time to visit various children in the hospital and is excited to give back. There will be a silent auction at the tournament and among the items to bid on are an autographed pair of shoes from Anthony Davis and autographed jerseys from Chandler Parsons, Carlos Arroyo and Young.
Young will continue rehabbing his left knee in order to return to 100 percent. He’s about eight months removed from surgery and believes he’s about a month away from being cleared to play again. Once his recovering leg improves to 90 percent of the strength of his strong leg, he’ll be able to resume playing. He’ll likely return to Greece some time next month.
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.