On Saturday UC Irvine clinched an automatic bid with a two point win over Hawaii in the Big West tourney title game. The Anteaters swept the regular season series with the Warriors and made it three in a row to secure the 1st tourney berth in school history. Earlier this week, Jon Teitel got to speak with Alex Young about how he helped put his school on the map.
In 2013 you were named conference co-ROY: how were you able to come in and contribute right from the start? I prepared myself the summer before getting here: working on the little things and trying to put on some weight to get stronger. My coaches and teammates helped my confidence by believing in me.
In the 2014 NIT you scored 10 points in a loss to SMU: what did you learn from that loss that you think will help you out this week? Playing a team like SMU who was basically a tourney-type team will help us when we face a team like Louisville who is of a similar caliber.
Last summer you played for Great Britain in the European Under-20 Championship: did your mother (who was born in England) encourage you to go across the pond, and how did you like having your Irvine teammate/English-born Luke Nelson be your international teammate as well? Once I found out that I could gain dual citizenship I just worked with the coach to figure out what I could do to get on the team. My mom really encouraged me to experience another culture, and having Luke there made the transition easier because he knew exactly what to expect.
You played a couple of tourney teams on the road in non-conference play (Arizona/Oregon): what impressed you the most about the Wildcats, and how close did you come to beating the Ducks? Arizona is athletic and likes to get out and run and plays really good defense. We played 32 minutes of great ball against them before it got away from us. Oregon is 1 of the most high-tempo teams in the country and I really wanted to win that game because I grew up in Oregon. Both games prepared us for the tourney.
7’6” Mamadou Ndiaye missed over half the season due to a foot injury: how is he feeling these days, and what is it like playing with such a tall teammate? He is doing well now, as you could see by his great focused effort in the Big West tourney. He is one of the most dominant players in the country due to his size and skill. We can trust him to protect the paint on defense.
You finished in the top-5 in assists per game in the conference for the third straight year: what is the key to being a good point guard? The coaches always say that a point guard is judged by how many games his team wins. My main job is to lead and make sure we are all on the same page. I take shots when I need to go and get the ball to teammates in the best position to score.
You scored 10 points on Saturday in a win over Hawaii: how big a deal is it to make the tourney for the first time in school history, and what was the reaction like when you got back to campus? It is incredible and a special feeling. It finally sunk in yesterday when we heard our name called on the selection show, and we all take pride in bringing a conference title back to campus. I just got back earlier this morning and we are getting a lot of congrats, but we want to keep winning games.
Will Davis II was named conference tourney MVP: how crucial has he been to your team’s success this year? He was amazing with 3 straight double-doubles and carried us on his back, and I expect he will keep doing it going forward. He is a high-energy player who can dunk and block and has been a real key to our success.
You play for Coach Russ Turner: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing you have ever learned from him? He taught me to have a competitive edge and always be ready to go by bringing your best. He and the assistant coaches always have us prepared and keep us hungry: we are only satisfied by achieving our ultimate goals.
How do you feel about getting a #13 seed, and how are you going to try and stop Montrezl Harrell? We are excited about being a 13 seed: it is exciting to be in the tourney. I have not watched much film on Harrell yet, but we are focused on our game plan and he will be 1 of our key focal points.