LEXINGTON — James Young has lived a relative lifetime in just a matter of some 12 months.
A year ago at this time, Young was fresh out of high school in Rochester Hills, Mich., preparing for a basketball season at the University of Kentucky that was billed by many as a drive for 40-0.
Most recently he was a first-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics, and a survivor of a car accident that shook him up physically and mentally.
The 6-foot-6 Young averaged 14.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game this winter for a 29-11 UK team that saw mostly valleys during the regular season, only to rally and finish one win shy of the national championship.
Then came his decision to leave UK after one year, followed by the car wreck on a Los Angeles highway.
“A car in front of me stopped so fast, and I just didn’t react fast enough and rear-ended him,” Young said.
Young said the only physical remnant of the wreck was a concussion — though there was widespread speculation that issue dropped him a few spots in the NBA Draft (to 17th) — but he said the incident scared him.
“It definitely was (scary), because it shows how fast things can change,” said Young, who said he’s been cleared just in the past few days to resume workouts. “It really opened up my eyes about things. I feel very blessed that I’m here and can still play.”
Young was philosophical about other issues as well as he spoke Tuesday at a kids’ camp on the UK campus.
Early in a mid-camp interview, a reporter asked Young what advice he would give the players on the current Kentucky Wildcats if talk of 40-0 starts anew.
“Don’t listen to it at all,” Young said. “We kind of listened to it last year, and it got to us, and we had an up and down season.
“It just got so big for everybody,” he added. “It was talked about so often on ESPN and places like that. I feel like we tried so hard to please everybody instead of worrying about just playing. Once we got past our little slump, or whatever, we got around to just playing basketball.”
Young said he was going to see the current Wildcats practice later Tuesday afternoon, as coach John Calipari’s bunch prepares for an exhibition tour of the Bahamas.
“I’d tell them just leave the media stuff alone and stay focused,” Young said.
It should help, Young acknowledged, that this season’s Wildcats have considerably more experience than they had this past season.
“It’s going to help them a lot,” Young said, referring to UK’s experienced roster. “They shouldn’t be nervous about anything like we were last year. Just go out and play.”
Young said he loves the vibe around Boston about the Celtics and feels peace about his decision to leave school for the NBA.
“It was the run we had,” Young said when asked why he left UK. “I talked to my dad right after the game, and he said it was really up to me. And if I felt like I was ready, just go. It took me a few days to think about it, and I talked to him about it, and I felt like I was ready.”
But Young said he still thinks about the national title loss to Connecticut.
“Every once in awhile I get a flash back about what happened,” he said. “I was at the (NBA) combine, sitting on my bed, thinking about what we could have done different and stuff like that.
“But there’s nothing more we can do about it now.”