Pitt failures, successful brother motivate Young Print
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Thursday, 12 February 2009 12:20
NCAAB Headline News


 PITTSBURGH (AP) -Sam Young's college basketball career is dwindling down to a few precious games, one final Big East tournament, a last chance at the success that has long dodged No. 4 Pittsburgh in the NCAA tournament.
This is the season the 6-foot-6 Young could have passed up - a breakout junior year likely would have made him millions as Pitt's first NBA first-round draft pick since 1999. But as his teammates learned long ago, the complex and often hard-to-read Young is not wound that way.
They realized that the first time he sat down at a grand piano in a hotel lobby and played a complex melody. When they discovered he reads his own poetry during open mike nights at Pittsburgh coffee houses. When they learned his brother, who is blind, qualified for the Maryland state high school wrestling tournament. When they heard the cell phone greeting in which he recites all the supposed deficiencies he has on the court.
verages 17.9 points and has had 10 games of 20 points or more for Pitt, which earned the first No. 1 ranking in school history earlier this season.
``We've made some history and we're continuing to make some history,'' Young said. ``And I think we'll continue to make history down the stretch.''
Most of all, Young wants to make it in March, when Pitt has repeatedly failed despite being a Top 25 fixture for eight seasons. The Panthers, second-round losers to Michigan State last season, haven't advanced past the round of 16 since 1974 or made the Final Four in 68 years.
While Pitt running back LeSean McCoy turned pro last month after two excellent seasons, Young will play his entire college career.
``It's a chance for us to do things Pitt has not done in the past,'' said Young, who considers a No. 1 seeding to be the first step toward a deep NCAA run. ``Having the No. 1 seed, I think, would put us into the NCAA tournament with a big confidence boost. I think it's very important for us to get that.''
Throwing a party in Vegas for his friends? A big SUV? Those aren't important to Young, who draws his inspiration from poetry, an inner drive that makes him take the court almost every day of the year - and the younger brother who is as strong as he is, but lacks the gift of sight needed to play pro sports.
n brother Michael Spriggs, and his voice fills with love and respect.
``He was always an athlete but he had a vision problem (glaucoma and cataracts) when he was born and, as it got worse, he became blind,'' Young said. ``But he always kept his athletic spirit.''
A spirit that caused Young and his friends to wrap their footballs in plastic bags for pickup games, so Spriggs could hear the sound of the spinning ball and know where to go. A spirit that caused Young and his brother to wrestle so many times in their living room that mother Marquet Craig finally called a halt, lest they break the furniture.
``It wasn't like a big brother-little brother wrestling, I can tell you that,'' said Young, who is four years older. ``It was more like two competitors. He made me work and a couple of times he got me and I had to tap out.''
Those impromptu bouts helped lead to Spriggs' career at C.H. Flowers High in Prince George's County, Md., where he went 27-11 last season and was one of only two wrestlers on his team to make the state tournament. It took a returning state champion to oust him.
Young's pride in his brother is evident, even though the two rarely attended each other's games and matches because of their conflicting schedules.
to make the Internet talk to him,'' Young said. ``He's very resourceful that way.''
So is Young, who didn't play competitive basketball until ninth grade because he initially wanted to be an Olympic gymnast or a wide receiver. Now, he's the proverbial gym rat, often playing eight hours a day during the offseason.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said it's almost impossible to run him off the Petersen Events Center court, where Young gladly plays pickup games with the team managers or any students who wander by. He played so much before his sophomore season, it may have contributed to the knee problems that led him to have a disappointing season.
Young emerged on the NBA's radar last season by jumping his scoring average from 7.7 to 18.1 and winning the MVP award in the Big East tournament, when Pitt won four games in four days to take the title. Once his career is over, Young is expected to rank sixth or seventh in career scoring at Pitt.
``He might be as good as any college player I've seen in getting to the paint,'' Belmont coach Rick Byrd said.
Or, as it turns out, in slapping around some paint. Mostly because of Spriggs, Young became so involved in Pittsburgh-area projects for the blind that he is one of 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS award that honors players for their community work.
tation. We have a lot of ideas, but it's just in the beginning stages.''
His college career is not, so Young plans to pick out one special game, dedicate it to his brother and then go play like Spriggs would: all out, with no excuses and no sympathy asked.
``I will tell him that one game,'' Young said. ``That's very important to me and probably will be to him. So I'm definitely going to let him know.''
 

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