Kyle Young glad divergent path led him to Ohio State men’s basketball team

Adam Jardy
Kyle Young, dunking against Minnesota on Jan, 23, became a fan favorite for his gritty and passionate play.

Kyle Young considered himself a pretty good student when he graduated from Massillon Jackson in 2017. But it remained to be seen how that would translate to an academic career at Butler, where he had signed to play college basketball.

Instead, a little more than three years later, Young was back home with his family Aug. 9 celebrating a bachelor’s degree in sport industry from Ohio State. It’s not exactly the path he had envisioned for himself, but it was one Young is proud to have traveled.

“I think about that all the time,” Young told The Dispatch about his possible alternate timeline. “The only thing I really have is that it was meant to happen. It was faith. I’m just happy that I’m here.”

The path diverged from the plan when Ohio State fired coach Thad Matta in June 2017 and hired Chris Holtmann from Butler within a week. Within a matter of days, Young decided to follow the coaching staff that had built such strong relationships with him and his family and enroll at Ohio State as Butler released him from his scholarship.

In the ensuing three years, Young has emerged as a fan favorite and a classic throwback player: gritty, passionate and willing to play an often unglamorous role. While he has averaged 5.1 points and 4.0 rebounds and battled injuries along the way, Young has also been named an academic all-Big Ten recipient in 2019 and 2020, an Ohio State Scholar Athlete in 2020 and was named to the 2019-20 National Association of Basketball Coaches Honors Court for academic excellence.

“I feel like I’ve definitely become a better student since I got here, and I’ve learned a lot being here my three years at Ohio State and built a lot of connections,” he said. “It was taking a different approach mentally to your habits, attacking tests and papers or whatever it may be in a different manner.”

Young said he front-loaded his courses as a freshman to help keep his options for a fourth year should he be able to graduate early. Math classes weren’t particularly enjoyable, Young said, which made passing them without incident a big milestone in his journey. While taking kinesiology courses, Young said his own injury situations would occasionally be used as in-class talking points.

He had to be flexible during the COVID-19 pandemic, which robbed him of the opportunity to participate in the Bucks Go Pro internship program. Needing to fulfill the internship requirement for his degree, Young instead put in 180 hours of work on an alternative project on how the virus has affected the strength and conditioning aspect of the sports industry.

His final project involved analyzing data from the monitoring devices he and his teammates wear, surveys submitted to his coaches and players and a final presentation at the end of the summer grading period that helped wrap up his degree

“I’ve always been taught to do your best with everything you do, but you always need to excel in the classroom while you’re playing sports,” Young said.

The graduation ceremony itself was virtual due to the pandemic. Young and his family streamed it from home, where his cap and gown hadn’t even arrived yet. When it came time, he mimicked moving his tassel from one side of his mortarboard to the other.

It was a surreal ending to a journey that Young never expected to take.

“I built those relationships with coach Holtmann and his staff before and I told them I just wanted to rock with them,” Young said. “The fact that they came here to Ohio State and I’m much closer to home, the amount of memories that we’ve built here, the things we’ve built here, I’m just happy I’m here.”


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Kyle Young speaks to reporters during media day for the Ohio State men's basketball team in the Value City Arena practice gym in Columbus on Tuesday, September 24, 2019.