Walk-ons at Kansas prove their value daily in practice as members of the scout team, known as the Red Team.
“We take it really serious,” said Clay Young, a 6-foot-5 junior from Lansing, who is beginning his second season as a non-scholarship Jayhawks basketball player.
“It’s vital to our success, these guys seeing other team’s plays. Seeing what teams do is really important.”
Now, it does take some getting used to for a walk-on to understand that he won’t be playing much in games. Young scored four points all last season while appearing in a total of nine contests.
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“I used to play almost every minute,” Young said of his days at Lansing High and Kansas City Kansas Community College, where he played before coming to Lawrence. “It’s definitely a different role. Just being part of this is incredible. I’m thankful for all of it and wouldn’t change a thing. ... Being a part of this team has been the best experience of my life.”
Young, who scored his first point as a Jayhawk by hitting a free throw against Chaminade in Hawaii, said he “definitely improved quite a bit from the beginning of the year to the end.”
That’s partly because last season was a comeback year for Young. He tore his ACL in the second game of his second season at KCKCC.
“Part of it was me getting back in the swing of things,” Young said. “I definitely improved, caught up to the speed of the game, stuff like that. I was able to go to every practice all year. There were maybe a few days it (the knee) felt bad and I put a brace back on it. Other than that, I was good to go.”
Young enters his junior season 1-for-1 from the field. He’s a perfect 100 percent, having made his only attempt in a win over Holy Cross.
That’s all fine and dandy, but he knows what’s really important.
“My role is to push the guys that are going to be out there, try to make them the best they can be, make the team better, be a good teammate,” Young said.
His work classifies as a labor of love, considering he grew up a big Jayhawks supporter.
“I was a huge fan of (former KU forward) Wayne Simien growing up,” Young said. “I would go to the Leavenworth basketball camps. He would be there helping out. I thought that was the coolest thing.
“I have actual memory of watching the national championship game in 2003 (KU’s loss to Syracuse). I would have been 9 years old. I grew up watching Aaron Miles, Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison. I’ve been going to games since I was that young, too. It’s an amazing thing they considered me and let me be part of it.”