Former Perris High Standout Kevin Young, Kansas Teammates Ready for Final Four

After the University of Kansas defeated North Carolina on Sunday to advance to the Final Four this w...

kevin youngAfter the University of Kansas defeated North Carolina on Sunday to advance to the Final Four this weekend, Perris resident Alicia Morales sent a text message to her son Kevin Young, a junior forward for the Jayhawks.

"I told him I'm very proud of him, but don't call me because I'll just cry," Morales said. "It's been a very emotional time."

In the spring of 2010, Young left Loyola Marymount after two seasons as a starter, sitting out the next season while earning his AA degree from San Bernardino Valley College. Young appeared headed for San Diego State until he was recruited by Kansas coaches, who had noticed him playing for the Puerto Rico U19 Team in 2009.

Photo / Kansas Journal World

Last fall, Young joined the Jayhawks with high hopes for the upcoming season. But the former All-CIF standout at Perris High School had no idea just how far that wild ride would take him.

On Saturday, Young and his Kansas teammates will play Ohio State in one of the country's premier sports events -- the Final Four. Following the early game between Kentucky and Louisville, Kansas (31-6) will face Ohio State in the New Orleans Superdome. The game will be televised beginning at approximately 5:49 p.m. Pacific time.

"I was worried at first about Kevin going to a whole new program," said Morales, who is Puerto Rican. "I just told him to be patient, go hard in practice, and if something happens, they'll call you in.

"Right now, I'm on Cloud Nine. I grew up here in Perris. I'm hearing from a lot of people here about this. You should see my Facebook page."

There will certainly be a lot of local residents rooting for Young, who isn't a starter for Kansas but has played a key role off the bench, especially in the second half of the season.

Young contributed key scoring off the bench in Kansas' Sweet 16 victory over North Carolina State, then came up with strong rebounding in the win over North Carolina in the Elite Eight. He has been steadily improving since a Dec. 10 Jayhawks victory in which he scored a season-high 14 points with four rebounds.

The opponent that day? The same Ohio State team Young and the Jayhawks will face on Saturday.

"I've probably improved most on my defense," Young recently told the Kansas Journal World. "At the beginning of the year, I didn't play real good defense. Throughout the year, I've been trying to improve on it a lot. I'm just trying to take in everything they (coaches) say about how to guard their guards or their bigs when they get switched."

Young receives high praise from teammate Tyshawn Taylor, a starting guard and the team's second leading scorer at 16.7 points per game.

"KY's good, man," Taylor said in an interview with the Kansas Journal World. "There are so many things he can do. He has so many intangibles, as coach calls them. He can rebound, he can pass the ball. He's not a bad shooter when he gets his feet set. I love playing with him because his intensity is always high, no matter what he's doing. It's hard to match his energy because he's going 100 miles an hour, nonstop."

Even when he's not in the game, Young is visible to everyone in the arena. He often is the first one off the bench to celebrate a Kansas basket, waving his arms and shouting words of support to his teammates.

Young says the whole experience of March Madness is something he'll never forget.