JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Patric Young returned to his hometown of Jacksonville on Wednesday when the Pelicans met the Washington Wizard in a preseason game.
For Young, it was yet another stop in his bid to make New Orleans his new home by earning one of the 13 spots on the Pelicans roster.
It won’t be easy. Young has never and will never be known for his scoring prowess. He rarely reached double figures in his four years at the University of Florida. Defense and rebounding were his strengths and still are. If he makes the roster, it will be because he can come off the bench to spell Anthony Davis with some valuable minutes and at the same time, hold his own against the opposing center.
“All I’m doing right now is looking for consistency where I go out and play hard every single night,” Young said during the Pelicans shoot-around Wednesday morning. “I can’t get discouraged if I don’t play.
“I’ve also got to learn to take care of myself. We played almost 40 games last year and I was banged up. We play 82 here in the NBA, so I’m going to have to really make sure I’m taking care of my body and am on top of all that stuff.”
Young did a good job of taking care of himself while at Florida. He never missed a game in his career and became just the second player in program history to appear in 150 games. He averaged a little more than eight points and five rebounds a game throughout his career. Young became a fan favorite with his overall effort, especially when he used his 6-foot-9, 240-pound frame to dive on the floor for loose balls.
Don’t think of Young as just a physically sculptured jock however. He’s much more than that. In addition to earning second-team honors his final two seasons, he became the Southeastern Conference’s first three-time winner of the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year, earning the recognition in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
But being a smart player won’t necessarily get one drafted by an NBA club, and that’s what happened with Young. After he was passed over in the draft, he made the most of a strong summer showing to earn a two-year contract with the Pelicans. That’s all he wanted.
“The only thing I can do now is prove to my team I deserve to be here,” he said. “The only thing I can do to hurt myself is to hold onto the anger (of being passed over in the draft). I’m always motivated to be the best I can.
“The fun part is enjoying where I’m at now and getting to the end goal.”
Young is living his childhood dream. Not a lot of people talked about him playing in the NBA, even when he led his high school team, Jacksonville Providence, to a state championship. But he believes in himself. He just has to prove it on the floor.
His dream had a pinch-me moment the other night when the Pelicans were in Louisville, Kentucky, to take on the Heat.
“I check in against the Heat and had to guard Chris Bosh,” he said, flashing his infectious smile. “That’s pretty crazy, the first time you’re in an NBA game and you’re playing against a future Hall of Famer. He gets the ball on the very first play but I stopped him so that’s a pretty memorable moment.”
Young is hopeful there will be many more such moments in the months and years ahead.