Alex Young has been feeling adventurous as of late.
Alex Young has been feeling adventurous as of late.
On Wednesday, the 20-year-old Phoenix native made his first trip to Crater Lake and returned with nothing but good memories.
On June 28, Young will log another first-ever journey — one that's been in the making for a year — and he's hoping that one will produce similar results.
After two successful seasons playing point guard for the UC Irvine men's basketball team, Young is looking to take another big step as a member of Great Britain's national team for the upcoming FIBA U20 European Championships in Greece.
"I think this is going to open a lot of doors for me and I'm really excited," Young said.
While Wednesday's trip was Young's first to one of southern Oregon's most renowned tourist attractions, next weekend's jaunt will mark his first outside the United States.
"I'm knocking some things off the bucket list these days, that's for sure," he said with a laugh.
Making it all possible for Young is the fact that his mother, Louise, hails from Swindon, England, so he's eligible to compete for Great Britain due to his dual citizenship. His father, Will, was born in the United States.
The idea to give it a try came a year ago from UC Irvine associate head coach Ali Ton, who was a former assistant for the U20 Turkish national team, and was only supported this past season by freshman teammate Luke Nelson, who is from Worthing, England, and has three times been named his home country's player of the year at the U16, U18 and, last year, at the Division I level.
"My coach put it out there and I thought it was going to be a great opportunity," said Young. "It's been a process waiting to get both my American and British passport but that's been the main thing. I've been able to communicate between here and England through emails so it really hasn't been as much of a process as we thought it might be. At the end of it, though, I know it's going to be totally worth it."
Great Britain fields an 18-man roster, with 12 selected to be in uniform for the tournament while the other six are reserves. Great Britain was drawn into Group A and will face Latvia on July 8, Hungary on July 9, Greece on July 11 and Lithuania on July 12 in pool play. The tournament will be played in Heraklion, Greece, and runs through July 20. Italy beat Latvia for last year's championship.
Young said the players will convene at Essex College for a mini-camp, where the final 12 will be selected, and then head to Greece the following week in preparation for the tournament. Although no specific roster spot has been guaranteed, Young said Nelson and his UC Irvine coaches have assured him that he has a great chance of making the team.
"It's not something I'm worried about, making the team or having a spot on the final 12," said the 6-foot-1, 190-pound point guard. "I'm just going to go out there and play basketball the way I know how and just leave it at that. Right now I'm just truly thankful and blessed in the things I've been able to do so far, and I just think this is my next step to make a career after UCI."
Young said he's also looking forward to being able to strengthen his on- and off-court bond with Nelson, who led the Anteaters in scoring this past season at 11.8 points per game to go with 2.9 assists.
"When he came here I kind of took him under my wing and showed him around and now I guess it's his turn to return the favor," said Young. "It will be great to have a chance to bond more on and off the court and I think that will really help for next season at UCI."
This past season was a universally successful one for the Anteaters, although they weren't able to achieve their ultimate goal of reaching the NCAA tournament. UC Irvine went 13-3 to secure its first Big West Conference regular-season title in 12 years, and its 23 wins in 35 games tied the second-most for a season in school history.
That said, the Anteaters were upset in the conference tournament to miss out on an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. They were selected for the NIT but lost an opening-round matchup at SMU.
"I didn't have the year that I wanted to have, of course, but as a team we had an absolutely great year," said Young. "We just need to take a step or two to get over the hump to get to the NCAA tournament and I think we will next year."
Young started his sophomore campaign off strong and wrapped the year by averaging 8.9 points, 4.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds in his second straight season at the helm for UC Irvine. He earned all-Big West honorable mention recognition and will enter his third campaign already ranked seventh in Anteater history with 305 career assists.
As a freshman, Young set a UCI freshman single-season record with 144 assists and was named Big West Conference co-Freshman of the Year.
This offseason, Young said his coaches have told him to look at being more aggressive on the court and look for his own scoring opportunities so he can take another positive step in the upcoming season. The Anteaters are expected to return all but one player off last year's roster.
"I know I'm capable of doing it, it's just getting back in the right mindset," he said. "I've always kind of been the guy who wants to make sure his teammates are happy and getting the ball where they're able to score. Sometimes I have to do that for myself, but it's got to be at the right time."
Just like stepping outside your personal boundaries, as Young did Wednesday and will do in the coming weeks.
"The view of the water at Crater Lake is wonderful and we walked down a trail and were able to put our feet in the water," he said basking in his recent experience. "The water was freezing but the view was priceless. It will stick with me for the rest of my life."
With that review, there's no telling what Young will have to say once he returns to southern Oregon in mid-July.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry