Brandon Young noticed right away that the Georgetown defender had his back turned to him on an inbounds pass. And later in DePaul's game against the Hoyas, Young's opponent did the exact same thing.
"So ... the third time I looked at the bench ... and kind of like mumbled, 'I'm going to throw it off his back.' And I just did it," Young said.
The result was an easy layup for Young, who finished with 16 points in DePaul's 83-75 loss to Georgetown.
That sequence of events – exercising caution before exhibiting confidence – serves as a microcosm of Young's development over his first two seasons with the Blue Demons.
"My first year at DePaul wasn't very comfortable. I didn't know what to expect, starting as a freshman point guard. [There was] a lot I had to learn," said Young, a Randallstown native and Friendship Collegiate (D.C.) grad. "As [my career] went on, I became a sophomore starter and was learning more things, seeing more things. That made me confident."
That confidence was evident throughout a sophomore year in which Young was DePaul's second-leading scorer at 14.5 points per game and top assist man with a 4.7 average. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior shot 42.3 percent from the field and averaged 1.6 steals.
Young's trial-by-fire freshman year – a season in which he was named to the Big East All-Rookie team – provided him with all the on-the-job training he needed to have an even better sophomore campaign.
"I learned so much my freshman year. I knew what to expect my sophomore year. I knew what the task was going to be," Young said. "Coach [Oliver] Purnell was just telling me to stay focused, be aggressive. I can get to the lane. Do what I do. That's just all about being confident. Just working it and playing hard. Not letting anything get in my way. That's about it. Being aggressive for the whole 40 minutes."
Being aggressive meant more than just bouncing the ball of an unassuming player's back. For Young, it meant slashing to the bucket and finishing in traffic. It meant looking for his own shot almost as frequently as looking for an open teammate. And it meant taking over games as DePaul's top offensive threat when leading scorer Cleveland Melvin (Lake Clifton) took on a more secondary role.
Young led the Blue Demons in scoring in four-straight Big East games in January, including a 26-point, six-assist, five-steal and four-rebound performance in a win over Pittsburgh. With two seasons of Big East competition under his belt, Young was ready for an invite to the Kevin Durant Skills Academy over the summer.
"I knew going in it was going to be a camp with a lot of talent. I've played talent all my life. It's something I was used to," he said. "[The] biggest lesson was to work hard each and every day. Everybody dreams to be in the NBA, [so] just make sure you're doing what the other person is not doing. Hard work pays off. You work hard, good things will come to you."
Young spent the majority of his summer in Chicago, working with teammates and welcoming DePaul's well-regarded freshman class to the Windy City. His freshman-year reticence long gone, Young considers himself a leader for the Blue Demons charged with guiding his team back to prominence. It's been a tough few years for DePaul, which finished the 2011-12 season with a 12-19 record (3-15 in the Big East), so Young's mission as a junior is clear.
"For us to win more games in the Big East," Young said. "Obviously, we want to win more. Everybody understands Purnell and his style of play. I expect for us to have a big year and win more games. We'll see the shock on a lot of peoples' faces."
The Sweet 16 is an occasional series profiling the best Division I college basketball players from the Baltimore area. Players were selected based on prior accomplishments and projections for the upcoming season.