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Cam Young has emerged from an unknown reserve to the leader of a breakout team
For Quinnipiac men’s basketball senior guard Cam Young, that’s been the journey.
At the first two stops, basketball came easy to Young. He graduated from Westchester High School in Los Angeles in 2014 after becoming a first-team all-conference varsity player his senior year, leading the team to a 30-7 record.
From Westchester, Young moved up to Arizona Western, a junior college team that has produced NBA talent, including Hall of Famer Nate “Tiny” Archibald and Brazilian center Rafael Araujo.
In his first year in Yuma, Arizona, Young played 22.0 minutes per game (MPG), averaging 10.3 points per game (PPG) and 4.9 rebounds per game (RPG). He started 16 of 30 games and the team was a respectable 16-14 at season’s end.
Young’s second year at Arizona Western was when he really emerged as a Division I-level talent. He earned 25.8 MPG and averaged 17.2 PPG and 6.0 RPG and was named to the first-team all-conference honor. His play had earned him a spot at the D-I level.
“His combination with skill and his size (allows him to succeed),” Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy said. “He’s a guy that’s very mobile, very athletic and he’s really big and he can score at the rim. A lot of guys that have his skill-set and do the things he does are usually 6-foot-1(-inch), he’s closer to 6-foot-6(-inch).”
Simply making it to this level wasn’t enough for Young. He struggled mightily in his first year in Hamden under former Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore. His days of averaging 20-plus minutes and double digit points were over. This was a new challenge.
“It was very frustrating last year, but I just tried to keep working on my game, even when I wasn’t playing,” Young said. “During warmups I would try to go as hard as I could just to keep getting better and not let (the lack of playing time) make me backtrack and stop playing my ball.”
When Baker Dunleavy was hired as Quinnipiac’s new head coach in March 2017, many of Young’s teammates, including standout freshman guards Mikey Dixon and Peter Kiss, both opted to transfer, opening up a clear opportunity for playing time.
Over the summer offseason, coaches are allowed a restricted amount of hours to be at practice with the team per week so no team gains an unfair advantage. Despite the fact that he had zero D-I points to his name, Dunleavy saw a determined man at those practices.
“I think he was looking to prove himself,” Dunleavy said. “He was really trying to make his mark and improve every day and really just show the coaching staff that he was dedicated. He spent a lot of time in the gym with our coaches and a lot of extra time working.”
That hard work paid off on opening day against Dartmouth when Young found himself in the starting lineup. He finished that game with eight points, the first eight of his career, but shot just 1-for-9 from the field.
“We hadn’t seen a lot of him playing in games, so you don’t know how anybody is going to react to playing under pressure,” Dunleavy said. “I knew what his talent was and was certainly hopeful that he’d be really good for us, but until we threw the ball up in real game situations, it was just more of a guess.”
Dunleavy guessed right. He kept Young in the starting lineup, and Young responded by scoring 15 points or more in three of the teams next four games.
“Just keep making plays,” Young said when asked what he does when his shots aren’t dropping. “Defensively you can make plays. Even when I’m not shooting well I know my teammates have faith in me to make shots.”
“This year [Dunleavy] has given me the chance and I’m just capitalizing,” Young said. “I’ve just been trying to stay aggressive for my team.”
As Young has heated up, so have the Bobcats. After being picked to finish 11th, dead last, in the MAAC, they currently sit tied for fifth at 6-6. Quinnipiac was just 3-9 in its non-conference slate.
“I think our non-conference losses got us prepared (for the MAAC),” Young said. “They got us to focus more on the details that we’ve needed to win.”
Young poured in a career-high 31 points on Friday in Quinnipiac’s double-overtime loss against the two-time reigning MAAC Champion Iona. With 3.8 seconds left in regulation, Young buried a deep 3-pointer to force the first overtime.
He was the first Bobcat to score 30 points or more in a game since Ousmane Drame (‘15) had 33 in 2014.
Even as the leading scorer on the team at 18.0 PPG, Young still isn’t the loud and demonstrative teammate that many would expect.
“I wouldn’t say he’s much of a vocal guy, in fact he’s a very quiet guy, but he found his way to just contribute and carve out his niche,” Dunleavy said. “So from when we (Dunleavy and his staff) have gotten here he’s just had a great attitude and good mindset of getting better.”
If Young keeps getting better the way he has all year, Quinnipiac will continue to be a tough team to play against for the remainder of the season, something that few expected back in November.