Kyle Young announces return with alley-oop slam dunk in Ohio State win

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State forward Kyle Young returned to action on Friday and scored on an alley-oop dunk in his first minute on the court.

There was a lot to take in and not a lot of time for Greg Paulus. A moment earlier, the final horn had sounded in No. 17 Ohio State’s 84-74 win against his Niagara team and the former Buckeyes assistant coach was making the long cross-court walk to the visitors’ locker room when he spotted a familiar face.

This wasn’t unusual on this day for Paulus, who was with the program from 2011-17. But when he spotted Mary Young, mother of fifth-year Ohio State senior Kyle Young, Paulus darted over to the railing and clasped both of her hands as they shared a quick moment together.

Paulus had recruited Young in high school. Friday night, he had a front-row seat to the return of the Ohio State captain after a vestibular dysfunction had sidelined him for much of the preseason and kept him out of Tuesday’s opener against Akron. So although Young helped the Buckeyes fend off the Purple Eagles, he’s got a fan in Paulus.

“I told him I was really proud of him,” Paulus said. “He’s a great person that really does so much for that team that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. He makes a lot of winning plays. I want to see him be healthy and have an unbelievable last year.”

The 9,749 fans at Value City Arena sounded as if they felt the same way. When Young entered the game with 14:41 left in the first half, he received an ovation that saw most of the fans rise to their feet and greet a player who has grown to be a fan favorite for his style of play.

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Those who didn’t stand were standing 10 seconds later when Jamari Wheeler threw a lob from the left wing to Young who, streaking behind the defense along the right baseline, slammed it home as the public-address announcer roared his name.

“He’s obviously beloved,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “I think when you lay it on the line like he does, day in and day out, this fan base is gonna love ya because of how he plays, the heart he plays with, how much he loves being a Buckeye. As a coach, you’re just happy for him.”

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Young said the ovation when his name was first announced felt amazing.

“Coming back for this fifth year, that’s a huge reason why I came back was for these fans and for Ohio State,” he said. “Seeing that respect right there, it felt pretty good.”

Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell takes a shot against Niagara on Friday.

It’s also clear that Young isn’t fully the player he was before his 2020-21 season ended prematurely in the Big Ten tournament when he suffered a second concussion in three weeks. Although he was able to put together a strong summer, Young started to feel off during the preseason before being diagnosed with the condition that required medication and rehab to get under control. There’s no way to tell whether the concussions last season and the vestibular dysfunction this year are related, Young said, but doctors have assured him that everything “under the hood” is fine and in no greater risk of further damage.

It was a slow progression for Young, who said he just started going full-go in practice this past week. In 22:21 against Niagara, Young tied Zed Key for the game high with seven rebounds and had five points. He missed his two 3-point attempts and looked rusty doing so, but he still managed to help possessions alive and play with the energy both Holtmann and Paulus referenced.

At no point was it more evident than on the lob from Wheeler.

“It felt great, being back out there with the guys,” he said “Hearing the fans cheer when I came back on, too, was something special. That dunk was all (Wheeler). He threw me a nice pass. It just felt good to get a bucket the first time I went in.”


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