By Rob Moseley
Several of Joseph Young’s goals for his senior season with the UO men’s basketball team are intangible.
The high-scoring guard wants to be a better leader, and a tougher defender. The Ducks’ leading scorer from last season wants to get stronger, to finish more plays around the rim.
Young also has at least one goal that will be easy to measure. The Houston native wants to average five assists per game next season, after averaging less than two in 2013-14.
“Some plays I laid the ball up, I could have made the extra pass,” Young said. “That’s why I’m looking at film, just trying to be the best I can be my last year in college.”
Having made the decision to return to Oregon after investigating his NBA draft stock, Young is more than halfway through spring term as of this week. He’s putting himself through tough conditioning workouts with fellow senior-to-be Jalil Abdul-Bassit, and has doubled his typical weight-room sessions from 30 minutes to an hour.
Young, Abdul-Bassit, junior Elgin Cook and walk-on guard Theo Friedman are on track to be the only returning players for UO coach Dana Altman next season. Six players signed national letters of intent with the intention of joining that quartet in the fall, including four freshmen.
When they arrive on campus, Young hopes to be a figurehead on the roster.
“I’m the leader, I’m the vet,” Young said. "I’m just going to have a statement from the beginning, that we’re fitting to do this the right way and get stuff done.”
Young has begun that process by asking more of himself, beginning in the weight room.
“I want to be wiry strong,” he said. “That’s one of the things I want to do, is be more toned and have that pro look.”
As a junior, Young got to the free-throw line 176 times, taking advantage of his 88.1 percent accuracy from the charity stripe, tops in the Pac-12. If all goes as planned, next year those attempts will drop, Young will be finishing more plays, and shooting and-ones after makes instead of two free throws after misses.
Getting stronger in the weight room will help Young wage those battles in the post, he believes.
“I feel like I could have had better finishes against bigger guys,” Young said. “It’s something I want to show people I can do.”
Young wants to become a more consistent jump shooter too, as well as a better distributor, items Altman hit on while visiting Young in Houston during the decision-making process regarding the NBA draft. Young knows he can be better on the other end of the court, too.
The Ducks led the Pac-12 in scoring with 81.9 points per game in 2013-14, though they only return 28 of those, led by Young’s 18.9. But Oregon was ninth in the conference in scoring defense.
“I told (Altman) my main focus was on the defensive end,” Young said. “I’m trying to be that leader on the defensive end, have that toughness. Bring what we didn’t have last year.”
Young said he primarily consulted with his parents during the draft process. He received an evaluation from the league that suggested he could be a first-round pick a year from now, with another season of development.
A sociology major, Young also investigated the option of finishing his undergraduate degree this summer and beginning a master’s program while at Oregon for his senior season.
“If I was doing it for the money, I would have went,” Young said. “But I’m doing it because I love the game, and I’m trying to make it work for me. Coming back this year to get better, work on my game, distribute the ball more and just lead the team.”