B.J. Young is doubled over, sweat pouring off his forehead as he tries to catch his breath. He’s 20 minutes into his workout, but from the look of things, it might as well be 20 hours. Young is no workout wimp. A standout point guard for McCluer North’s 2011 title team and a member of the all-Southeastern Conference second team and the all-SEC freshmen team this winter at University of Arkansas, Young, 18, does things on the basketball court only a small percentage of the planet can do. His 15 points per game led the Razorbacks this season. That he shot over 50-percent from the floor despite his high volume of shots was stunning. He’s a college star in the making even though he came off the bench for the Razorbacks. After starting for the North Stars in high school, it took some getting used to. “It was an adjustment,” Young says. “I just took it in a positive way and tried to make the best of it for my team.”
Young is going to spend this summer making himself better. He’s headed off to New York City to play at the legendary Rucker Park in a summer league. He’ll spend a few days at NBA superstar Deron William’s camp, and he’s hoping to tryout for the U19 national team.
But mostly, Young’s best chance at success will come like this—doubled over in a gym with his lungs on fire. He is leaving a sweat trail all over the Maplewood-Richmond Heights hardwood, as Corey Frazier and Ryan Johnson push him and a few others through the rigorous skill drills. Frazier and Johnson are the brain trust behind Whatever It Takes To Succeed (W.I.T.T.S.) training. Young is here in the gym because he believes this duo can take him where he wants to go—all the way to the NBA.
It’s not far fetched. Young tested the NBA draft waters this spring, and after the league’s talent evaluators gave him feedback, he decided to return to Arkansas for his sophomore season. At 6 foot 4 and 180 pounds, Young must get bigger and stronger if he’s going to survive the pounding.
Frazier and Johnson both believe Young can get there. It’s just a matter of sweat equity, and these drills are physically and mentally draining. The training is designed to mimic game situations, so when the time comes, Young’s body will have the muscle memory, and it will be second nature.
It’s a challenge for Young to keep it all straight. Frazier or Johnson is regularly stopping him mid-exercise to correct the smallest of flaws. And even when he gets it right, there is always a physical challenge awaiting him near the rim. Johnson has a yoga ball so he can bump Young and get the super sophomore-to-be to finish through contact. Later in the session, Frazier and Johnson will both lock up their pupils under the basket by grabbing and holding their arms like defender will. The object is to get the ball up and have a chance at it falling through the hoop.
Though rough, Young will only be better for the beating he takes at practice. It’s a small price to pay for giving him a shot at a professional basketball career. “I need to keep coming out and working hard every day, and do the best I can and go hard every day, 100-perecnt,” he says.