While a lot of athlete’s tend to use their free time to gamble or party, Young enjoys seeking ways in which he can help the at risk youth in the area’s in which he’s made a name for himself. Started in May of 2011, Young for Youth has continued to expand from Memphis, Philadelphia and New Orleans to now having programs which reach across the globe.
“You hear about a lot of players that have foundations around the league, but I feel like I’m one of the few players who gets involved with everything that goes on,” said Young in front of a crowd that had gathered at the event. “I know everything from top to bottom that we’re working on from week to week. We’re constantly texting, emailing, calling and we’ll even have sit down meetings every now and then.”
Young said this is a common trend among athletes in the NBA today. A lot of players will start up a camp or foundation throughout the country, but few actually invest their time and efforts into making them successful. A lot of times they’ll use their organizations as a way to brighten their image or make their teams/families happy, but few will actually go beyond writing the checks. Since the inception of Young’s organization, he’s tried to break that cycle and to set an example amongst his peers.
“It’s crazy for me to talk to someone else about their foundation who says they’ll just foot the bill for it or just show up when they’re told,” said Young. “I try to establish a connection with each and every person who’s working for me or working with me because if you don’t have that then what you’re trying to do isn’t going to be successful at all.”
Young’s drive has pushed others to lend a helping hand in his mission. Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and his son Jessie were in attendance to help join in the cause, so was Chief Marketing Officer of Parx Casino Marc Oppenheimer, along with plenty of other high-profile residents of the Philadelphia and its surrounding areas.
Young said that part of his bigger mission is to make a difference not just through his own foundation, but by helping with the expansion of others as well. The money he raised at this fundraiser was an example of that.
“This (money) isn’t just going towards The Young for Youth Foundation, we’re sprinkling a little bit to different boys and girls clubs and other organizations like that,” said Young. “We have a partnership with Students Run Philly Style where mentors will help train kids not only to run, but to achieve other goals in the process. We’re just really trying to help out in a lot of different ways with this event tonight.”
While Monday nights event was a success for Young and his organization, unfortunately he wasn’t able to say the same thing about the team he suits up for on a nightly basis. The Sixers stand at just 31-44 in what will be put in the history books as a forgotten season. Although the Sixers aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs just yet, (they sit five games behind the Milwaukee Bucks with seven left to play) Young is ready for the offseason.
“I’m just focusing on getting the season over with,” said Young. “It’s been an unfortunate situation the whole season (with Andrew Bynum’s injury). Everything’s been coming together here (at the end), but we’re still managing to just work through things and trying to keep figuring ourselves out in terms of just having a lot of new guys on the roster.”
Young is just 24 and has played only five seasons in the NBA, but amongst his teammates he’s a veteran. With the loss of Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams in the offseason, Young became the longest tenured player on the roster. Only five of the 15 players on the team were with the team last season. Young’s become the guy that his teammates look to for advice about the city, team and its fans. It’s a role that still takes him by surprise.
“I just have to take a step back sometimes and think about that for a second (being the longest tenured player on the roster),” said Young. “Everyone always comes to me for advice and I just think in my head like, ‘man, you’re older than me!’ They’ll ask me how things work around here and stuff like that. Coach will even come to me and ask for my input on certain things and it really makes me feel like I’ve become one of the main pieces that holds together this team.”
Not only has Young stepped up as a leader off the court, he’s statistically had his best season on it as well. As one of the lone bright spots for the Sixers this season, Young has boosted his averages across the board. He averages 15 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game and outside of point guard Jrue Holiday has been the engine that makes this team run.
Always humble, instead of talking about his own accomplishments, he lauded one of his teammates Monday who’s play has been outstanding the past month, guard Damien Wilkins.
“I think he’s been playing tremendous for us and I think he’s a great talent,” said Young. “I’ve known Damien for a while now, actually going back to Atlanta when we used to play pickup games. We like to call him our wrecking ball because he likes to run right at people to draw fouls and he’s just played tough all season long. He’s been battling on the court and he’s really been scoring the basketball a lot lately.”
Over the past two days, Young and Wilkins had the opportunity to go back home and hang out before their 101-90 win over the Hawks last night. The team practiced at Georgia Tech on Thursday where Young played for one year of college. CSNPhilly.com’s Dei Lynam got Thad’s reaction to being back at the place where he made a name for himself now over a half-decade ago.
“All this wasn’t here. It is much bigger, wider, open space,” Young said. “If you made a lay-up in the practice facility when I was here, you usually ran into the wall. It was definitely much smaller when I was here. Everything is beautiful, and this is definitely where it all started for me, so I am happy to be here and see my name on the wall of fame when you first walk in the door.”
Wilkins played basketball at rival Georgia, where the two recalled heated battles between the schools during their times there. If all is lost in this Sixers season, at least Young was able to find perspective from going back to where it all started, when he was just a young man focused on his dreams.
Sometimes in life things come full circle. Wilkins is a man reflecting on his long career while trying to lead the young Sixers by example and give it his all along the way. Young is a budding star, learning how to be the player that Wilkins is now, with the memories of his growing pains still fresh in his mind. Young for Youth can be the beginning, where troubled kids can get the opportunity to develop into well-rounded young men and one day follow the path of their biggest mentor.
Thad reflects on Kevin Ware: Anyone who hasn’t heard the name Kevin Ware in the past week must’ve been hiding out in North Korea on Easter Sunday instead of chowing down on Cadbury Eggs and Peep marshmallows.
Ware of course is a guard for Louisville, who just reached the Final Four under coach Rick Pitino by beating Duke 85-63 on Sunday. Towards the end of the first half, Ware suffered one of the most gruesome sports injuries of all-time, receiving a compound fracture of his right tibia, which broke in two separate places. Players fell to the ground in tears, pulling their jerseys over their faces. Even coach Pitino couldn’t hold back the tears of his fallen soldier.
Thaddeus Young saw the event live and was in disbelief as to what had just happened.
“I felt really bad for Kevin,” said Young. “I don’t know him but I immediately knew something was wrong as soon as he went down. I’ve never seen anything like that before in my life. I’ve seen torn ACL’s, ankle injuries and hamstring pulls but never anything like that. The situation of how it happened though was strange too. He was just going up to defend a jump shot and for him to have that as the result of it was just unreal.
“I wish him the best of luck in his recovery and I hope he’ll get strong enough soon so that he can play basketball again. It’s a game that we love so much and you never know when it could be taken from you like that.”
Young said the aftermath of the injury showed how strong of a bond programs on that level and on that stage have with one another.
“It shows how close they were,” said Young. “They’re definitely family and that moment brought them together even more. It even had coach Pitino crying and it just shows that he’s not just their coach. He’s like a father figure, brother or an uncle to those guys. It was a family situation that turned into an emotional high when they went back out and beat Duke. It was a time to rally and they showed that.”
Louisville is set to tip off for the Final Four against Wichita State at 6:09 p.m. on CBS. Kevin Ware will be in the building on crutches after successful surgery on his fractures.