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June 12, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN: Young living life in fast lane

MORGANTOWN — Frank Young has been living life in the fast lane since closing out his career as a West Virginia University basketball player with as hot a spell as any player ever has put together at the school.

And we do mean fast.

Young spent a couple of years playing professional basketball in Holland and Germany, which offers an unlimited speed limit on its autobahn, which has no speed limit.

“The fastest I got was 180 kilometers an hour,” the former John Beilein forward said.

That would be 112 miles an hour, which may not be faster than a speeding bullet but is fast enough to satisfy most drivers … except in Germany.

“If someone is coming behind you in the fast lane and you don’t get of the way they go flying by and give you a dirty look,” Young said.

It’s kind of like a Roadrunner cartoon … “Beep, beep.”

Young was back in town for the Bob Huggins Fantasy Camp, which opened its weekend run on Friday night at the Coliseum, his second trip to town since graduating. The other time he came in for the graduation of former teammate and friend Darris Nichols, who this year becomes a graduate assistant for Huggins.

Young, of course, left everyone a lot to remember him by with one of the greatest four-game runs in the school history to close out his career and help WVU earn its first NIT championship since the 1943 team took down that title.

His final game at the Coliseum was against N.C. State when he hit 6 of 9 3-point shots, 9 of 14 from the field and finished with 25 points.

“I remember I did not start well in that game and got two fouls early. Coach Beilein took me out but then put me in,” Young recalled. “He knew I didn’t like to run, so he told me if I got another foul I’d have to run.”

Instead of getting another foul, Young kept tossing down 3s, just as he’d done in hitting 31 against UMass in the previous game.

West Virginia went against Clemson in the NIT final, a tournament now famous for Nichols’ last-second baseline shot, but Young again was unerring from the field to keep WVU going with the Tigers. He finished a near-perfect 6 of 7 from 3.

Young, who would average 15.3 points a game for his senior season, closed out his career with four magnificent performances, hitting 33 of his final 52 field goal attempts, 22 of his last 32 3-point tries, which figures out to 69.7 percent.

You lead the nation in regular field goal percentage if you shoot that, let alone from 3-point range.

That, of course, lifted Young’s NBA stock and, he admits, he was hoping to get a shot at “The League” but it wasn’t to be. There wasn’t any room for a thin 6-foot-5 jump shooting forward.

“It was not NBA or bust for me,” he said, saying he was disappointed but neither surprised nor discouraged.

Still, he was at something of a crossroads. He certainly wasn’t going to retire and wasn’t financially sound enough to start the restaurant that he always said he would eventually open.

So off he went to Holland and Germany, where he didn’t speak the language but where he got really fortunate.

In Holland he came across a coach named Herman van der Belt, where he played with former WVU teammate Jamie Smalligan.

In some ways it was a perfect fit.

“He ran the same offense Coach Beilein ran,” Young recalled.

That meant throwing up a lot of 3s.

Young played his two seasons overseas but says a when the European economy went south, so did he, all the way back to Florida.

A year ago he was out of basketball, working for — but not collecting from — the Florida State Unemployment Service.

These days, Young is getting himself back into basketball shape, still shooting the 3s, hoping to make a comeback. He isn’t hurting for money, the dollars paid in Europe not only being good but with virtually all expenses paid for a couple of years you are able to put some away.

Not enough to start that restaurant, of course, but enough to handle any speeding tickets he may get on I-95 in Florida.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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