Young Has Turned Tragedy into Triumph
Dec. 6, 2010
CHICAGO – There is a somberness that emanates from Brandon Young, who already carries himself with a maturity well beyond his teenage years.
The term “college kid” evokes images of fun times, frat parties, new-found independence and the happy-go-lucky feeling that comes from having just about your whole life ahead of you.
Now imagine this college kid is also one of the best basketball players at tradition-rich DePaul who believes he can help recreate the glory days when the Blue Demons were the nation’s college basketball darlings---so why doesn’t he act like some big man on campus?
Young has scored in double figures for the first seven games of his career. That hasn’t happened for a freshman at DePaul since the outset of the 1998-99 season when a 6-foot, 9-inch center named Lance Williams put up those kinds of numbers.
On Sunday, Young scored a career-high 31 points in leading DePaul to a stirring 71-62 comeback victory over Central Michigan. That’s the highest scoring by a freshman since Quentin Richardson of the Orlando Magic scored 31 against California on Nov. 28, 1998.
After going 6-for-6 from three-point range, Young became the fourth player in DePaul history to go perfect from beyond the arc.
On Monday, Young was selected as the BIG EAST Conference Rookie of the Week after averaging 24 points in victories over Northern Illinois and Central Michigan.
The flash and daring in his game belie the humble, soft-spoken nature of a student-athlete who is equally comfortable being the facilitator or the go-to guy.
“I was hot, and my teammates did a good job of finding me,” Young said after the game, sharing the limelight as easily as he shares the ball.
What he doesn’t share with most people is a 12-month span in which a double dose of tragedy rocked his Baltimore childhood and left an indelible imprint on his very soul.
“When I was six years old, my dad (Dennis Young) died of a heart attack,” Brandon Young said. “He was driving a car and was able to pull over when it happened.
“My mom (Tracey Bailey) told me the bad news. I didn’t know much about it, but I knew my dad was gone. My mom said: ‘Even though your father is not here anymore, he will always be with you.
“My dad taught me about right and wrong. We would go out and have fun, joke around and laugh. We always went go-kart riding, and he was a barber so he cut my hair.”
Within a year, Brandon awoke from a nap after hearing his grandmother screaming. Henrietta Jupiter was watching television and saw a report about Brandon’s 13-year-old brother, Jonathan Niles.
“She said we’ve got to get over there because Jonathan is on the news,” Young said. “When we came to the house, there was nothing but ambulances. I was told to stay in the car.
“My mom came back and told me Jonathan had drowned in his friend’s backyard swimming pool.
“It was so hard to believe. Just why are you taking my brother and father away from me? It was hard going through that, seeing my mom and grandma struggling.
“I had to grow up fast and help my family out. Now, there is just my mom, grandma and me living at home.
“Just before I came out here last summer, my 33-year-old step-brother on my father’s side died from a heart attack.”
It’s no wonder Young has a different perspective on the world than most college kids.
“I help my grandma a lot at home and do my chores,” Young said. "My mom is working two jobs, making sure I always have something to eat. My grandma, she gives me everything I need.
“All of this makes me appreciate life more. Losing family members at an early age makes me work even harder to live my dream. I’m going to get my education and live my dream of playing in the NBA.
“I want to give back to my mom and grandma where they can sit back and relax---and I’ll take care of them.”
Young believes he has a little extra motivation to succeed.
“This is what drives me to go a step higher and never stop working,” he said. “Once I make it, I want both of my brothers and my father to be looking down on me and smiling.”
This is one point guard who has always taken pleasure in making his teammates smile.
“I’d rather make a nice pass than score a basket,” Young said. “That’s just me. I’m not a selfish player, and in real life, I’m not a selfish person.
“I’ll score if I have to, but my first option is to look for someone who can score. Someone like Mike Stovall needs to be the go-to guy, and I’ll set him up in crunch time.
“Shoot-first point guards aren’t getting many wins because their teammates aren’t getting many shots.”
Florida, Indiana, USF, Miami, Marquette and Rice all took at shot at landing Young, but DePaul came out on top.
“I came to DePaul for the opportunity to get a good education and meet new people in a great media city,” Young said. “Come on, it’s Chicago!
“I wanted to come to a program where I could be a part of an up-and-coming team. I wanted to come and build something.”
The restructuring under new coach Oliver Purnell has begun with guys like Stovall and Jimmy Drew, whom Young labels as the team comedians. He said Mike Bizoukas is the most serious, and that the three freshmen (Young, Cleveland Melvin, Moses Morgan) have formed a tight bond.
“Where you see one freshman, you’ll see the other two,” Young said. “Cleveland and I knew each other back in Baltimore. When I heard he was coming to DePaul instead of Connecticut, I was excited. “He’s someone I can count on running the wing. He is athletic and will go up and get the ball. He is as tough as nails.”
There is an inner toughness within Young that has steeled him through all the adversity.
“As I got older, it started to affect me,” Young said. “A lot of my friends had a father or a father figure. Mom had to be both. My mom has done a great job being my father figure.”
There is something that runs through Young’s mind each time he takes the court.
“Before every game,” Young said, “I think of my dad and both of my brothers.”