Commentary

Ex-player to lead GSU's rebuilding effort

Originally Published: July 8, 2009
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

During his 15 seasons as an assistant coach, Charlton Young would often tell his players they had to prepare for life after college basketball.

"I tried to tell these McDonald's All-Americans that nobody cares," Young said. "I always told them to prepare themselves for after basketball. I told them, 'You're not Martin Luther King. You're not Nelson Mandela. You didn't find a cure for cancer. You're a basketball player, and when you're done, they're going to replace you with somebody else. They won't even remember you a few years from now.'"

But after working only a few months as Georgia Southern's new basketball coach, Young is now beginning to realize how wrong he really was.

[+] EnlargeCharlton Young
Paul Abell/US PresswireYoung made a name for himself as a top recruiter, but fans in Statesboro knew him long before.

Wherever the 37-year-old Young goes in the southeast Georgia town of Statesboro, many people still remember him as "C.Y.," the one-time electrifying point guard who led the Eagles to their last NCAA tournament appearance, in 1992.

Young started 97 games at GSU and was an all-conference selection in two different leagues (Trans America Athletic Conference and Southern Conference). He still holds the school's career 3-point percentage record and ranks among the top five in career steals and assists.

More than 15 years after his GSU playing career ended, Eagles fans still remember Young's exploits on the court.

"It's good that people do remember me the way they do," said Young, who was hired April 9 to replace Jeff Price, who resigned after 10 seasons. "I'm shocked people remember me. But it's been good that people have remembered me the way they have."

Eagles fans can only hope Young is as successful as Georgia Southern's coach as he was as a player. He is widely regarded as one of the country's top recruiters, after spending the past four seasons working on Paul Hewitt's staff at Georgia Tech.

While working with the Yellow Jackets, Young helped Hewitt recruit current NBA players Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton. He also helped Tech sign incoming freshman Derrick Favors from South Atlanta High School, the No. 2 prospect in ESPNU's Top 100.

During two different stints as an assistant on Cliff Ellis' staff at Auburn, Young helped the Tigers sign future NBA players Chris Porter and Marquis Daniels. He also worked as associate head coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga in 2004-05, helping the Mocs reach the 2005 NCAA tournament.

"He works great with players," Hewitt said. "I think the way he connects with players is what separates him from everyone else. He knows the game really well, too. He studies it and always does a great job scouting. He's going to get the kids to buy in, and he'll keep them motivated and they'll play really, really hard for him."

Young inherits a Georgia Southern team that finished 8-22 last season, the third-worst record in the Southern Conference. The Eagles lost 12 of their last 13 games, after leading scorer Willie Powers suffered a season-ending knee injury and three other players were suspended for the team's final 10 games.

Six of GSU's top seven scorers from last season are expected back, but the Eagles need help in the frontcourt. The top three returning scorers are guards, including Powers, who averaged 14.5 points per game last season. Guard Ben Drayton III was named to the Southern Conference's all-freshman team after averaging 11.8 points in 2008-09.

"I think our perimeter has a chance to be very good," Young said. "Most people in the conference -- before I got the job -- felt Georgia Southern had one of the top backcourts in the league. We have to get a little better in the frontcourt."

Young signed two players during the spring signing period: 6-foot-7 forward Cameron Baskerville of Marietta, Ga., and 6-foot-8 forward Rory Spencer of Johnson County (Kan.) Community College.

Shortly after Price resigned on March 30, GSU athletics director Sam Baker announced the men's basketball program was under NCAA investigation. Baker hasn't revealed the details of the NCAA's inquiry, but sources close to the situation said it is related to academics.

Last season, departed seniors Julian Allen, Trumaine Pearson and then-junior Antoine Johnson were suspended the final 10 games for unspecified reasons.

Young said he was aware of the NCAA investigation when he agreed to coach his alma mater.

"I wanted to be here so bad that there wasn't going to be anything that would prevent me from being here," Young said. "I feel confident things are going to work out best for Georgia Southern and Georgia Southern basketball."

When Young arrived at Georgia Southern in 1989 after a stellar career at Carol City High School in Miami, the Eagles were one of college basketball's rising mid-major teams.

I wanted to be here so bad that there wasn't going to be anything that would prevent me from being here.

--Charlton Young

Georgia Southern made three NCAA tournaments under coach Frank Kerns from 1983 to 1992. Michael Curry, who played 11 seasons in the NBA and coached the Detroit Pistons last season, played for the Eagles in the late 1980s. So did Jeff Sanders, a first-round pick in the 1989 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls.

"I've always felt this university and program was a gold mine," Young said. "But most people don't know that. The program has struggled for much of the last 15 years. I've got a chance to take it back to where it used to be and to the next level."

When Young led the Eagles to their last NCAA appearance in 1992, the Eagles lost to Oklahoma State 100-73 in the first round in Atlanta.

"I had a very, very good career here," Young said. "But I only went to the NCAA tournament one time as a player. I felt like I should have gotten there three times. You don't get many second chances in life. But I have an opportunity to complete my vision when I came here as a player."

And GSU fans are counting on Young -- whom his father named after Charlton Heston because of the actor's role of Moses in "The Ten Commandments" -- to lead them back there.

"It's funny," Hewitt joked. "I've never even been on the Georgia Southern campus. But based on the selling job he did the last four years, they should be in the Final Four next year. He thinks that much of the place and absolutely loves it there."

Mark Schlabach covers college basketball and college football for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball