Isis Young battled through a torn ACL and a transfer to become SU’s spark plug off the bench

first_img Published on February 18, 2018 at 8:40 pm Contact Nick: | @nick_a_alvarez Facebook Twitter Google+ Dennis Young sat in the bleachers of Philadelphia University’s gym and watched his daughter, Isis, compete in a showcase during her senior year at Life Center (New Jersey) Academy. She drove the lane on a fast break late in the game and had a clear route to the rim. A defender hustled back and clipped Young, sending her to the floor.“Dad!” Young yelled from the ground while holding her right leg.Dennis didn’t budge. He recently described the hit as “innocuous.” When she yelled again, her voice sharper, a higher octave, he grew concerned. Young tried to get up and crumbled back to the ground.A few days later, a doctor examined the MRI and told Young, Dennis and his wife, Denise, what they suspected from their own research: Young tore her ACL and part of the MCL in her right knee.Young had committed to Florida the summer before her injury and was playing the best basketball of her life, her parents said. It took her about a year to rehab the injury, and another four years to mentally recover.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Rehab is no joke,” Young said. “I always tell people that. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve been through in my life.”Young, now a redshirt-junior at Syracuse (19-7, 7-6 Atlantic Coast), was the No. 59 player in the Class of 2014, according to espnW, and was part of Florida’s Top 10 recruiting class. But the injury and a scheme-change foiled her two campaigns as a Gator. They both served as an impetus to SU, where she transferred in 2016. After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, she’s playing consistent minutes for the first time since the injury. She’s the first player off the Orange bench, averaging 18.3 minutes and 6.3 points per game. She’s one of five transfers to impact Syracuse this season.Up until the injury, every offense she’d played on had run through her. At Florida, Young was an afterthought. At SU, she’s shown flashes of the dynamic scorer she was four years ago, but as a role player, Young’s had to adjust.“Before the injury, she was a heck of a player,” said Walter Welsh, one of her former AAU coaches. “She had a little more quickness. Her shot was even more on target. I’m not sure if the injury took something away from that, but I think she’s trying to find her way back to where she was.”Dennis and Denise primed Young for her future prior to her injury. At 5 years old, Young dribbled through plastic cones after her soccer practice. Dennis wanted her to be the best, so after some practices he and Young remained on the field for an extra 30 minutes.Young comes from a family of athletes. Her brother, Isaiah, plays for Werder Bremen II, a third-tier German soccer team. Her sister, Imani, attends Wagner College on a soccer scholarship. Young’s parents allotted an extra hour or two of practice for their children.“That’s the lifestyle we created,” Dennis said. “Before the season starts and after it ends, it’s a constant workout.”Codie Yan | Staff PhotographerEventually, Young fell in love with women’s basketball through watching Southeastern Conference schools like Tennessee, Mississippi State and Louisiana State. She was enamored with the schools’ run-and-gun, “exciting,” style of play. Because of that, Young chose basketball, foregoing a soccer career.Dennis and Young then developed a practice regimen they follow to this day. The routine starts with Young warming up with some elbow jump shots. After that, Dennis sets up a plastic cone somewhere on the court, usually behind the 3-point line, and has Young make 25 shots from the designated spot. Then he’d drop another cone and on they would go. The whole routine usually takes less than an hour, he said.Dennis, owner of Youth Elite Sports, a company that hosts youth sporting events, had access to gyms around their home in Berlin, New Jersey. He called the shootarounds with Young their “bonding time.” Somewhere amid the 500 made shots, the conversation would veer toward school and life.“Most of the time it was just Isis and me,” Dennis said of the practices. “Sometimes, Denise participates, but those times for me were my quality time with my daughter.”In seventh grade, Young joined Ring City, an AAU team founded by five-time NBA champion Ron Harper. Her team was coached by Welsh and featured future Division I players like Virginia’s Aliyah Huland El and Connecticut’s Batouly Camara. Young, Welsh said, was the point guard and go-to player who took crucial shots late in games.She made passes to open spaces on the floor, expecting her teammates to fill the gap. When the ball eventually trickled out of bounds, Young made her way to the sidelines, and Welsh had to explain that she understood the game better than her teammates.“She developed herself to be one of the top players of the country,” Welsh said. “… With all the talent we had, she stood out the most.”Her parents continued to challenge her, enrolling her in Trenton (New Jersey) Catholic Academy, a high school an hour from their home that featured more competitive basketball. In her first three seasons, Young scored more than 1,000 points.During the state semi-final in her junior season, en route to what would be an eventual championship, Young led TCA against Gill St. Bernard’s. The matchup was billed locally as the battle between the top-two teams in the state. Harry Perretta, Villanova’s head women’s basketball coach of 39 years, was in attendance to scout Young. By halftime, TCA had put the game out of reach and Young had scored 24 of her 33 points. Perretta told Dennis it was the “greatest individual performance” he had ever seen.In the summer before her senior year, Young committed to Florida and transferred to Life Center Academy, a prep school. Life Center had a nationally ranked program, Dennis said. It featured a “college-like” schedule, meaning the team would compete against top-ranked programs across the country. Young started immediately and averaged 20 points per game before the knee injury in the 17th contest derailed her season.Codie Yan | Staff PhotographerInstead of having surgery immediately, Young rehabbed to reduce the swelling in her knee. Her treatment included extended periods of icing her knee followed by sessions of an electrode machine stimulating movement in her leg. Three weeks after the tear, she underwent surgery.For weeks after the procedure, Young couldn’t walk and was hunkered down by the knee brace. Dennis was Young’s mode of transportation, carrying her from room to room. Still looking for their bonding time, Dennis sometimes lugged Young to the family’s minivan and drove to an empty gym, where Young threw up shots from a chair. They eventually purchased a stationary bike and treadmill as Young proceeded through rehab.Young was cleared nine months after the surgery and competed in full basketball activity for the first time while at Florida. Physically, she was back to normal. The only remnant of the injury was a scar on her knee and a new hitch in her walk.“I still don’t walk the same way I walked before,” Young said. “… When you get the chance to take (your leg out of the brace) and bend it, you always walk with a limp because you’re so used to having to drag it. You have to learn how to walk again. I know I walk a little bit tilted now, differently than I did before.”Young was granted a medical redshirt for her freshman season and spent her first year mostly running during practices. Florida wanted to strengthen the area around her knee to prevent another ailment.In her second year, the Gators pivoted from a point-guard-oriented, fast-paced offense, Young said. She was quickly lost among the eight other guards on the roster. Young played in 16 contests and averaged 7.3 minutes per game for a team with no use for her skillset.“I just didn’t think I was going to reach my full potential (at Florida),” Young said. “… It had nothing to do with me.”Her parents looked for a program that would best suit the shooting-heavy mindset Young still possessed. Dennis referred to Orange head coach Quentin Hillsman’s program as “second-nature” for Young, and in May 2016, she announced her transfer.Young spent another year on the bench due to NCAA transfer rules, but this time felt different. She wasn’t hurt and watched all of SU’s 33 games thinking about how she could thrive. Young buried herself in film study and refined her catch-and-shoot ability.Last summer, Young and fellow-Orange transfer Miranda Drummond signed up for King of Kings, a pro-amateur basketball league in Utica, New York. Young won the league’s most valuable player award and dropped 41 points in the championship game. For the first time in four years, she felt like her old self, she said.“It was the most productive thing she’s done for her college development,” Dennis said. “It was the first time that she knew that she was back. … It was good to see her in an environment where was comfortable.”Last fall, when Young started her first eligible season, she wasn’t the standout she was over the summer. She wasn’t even a point guard. Young scrapped for minutes and searched for her role within SU’s then-10-player rotation. She learned to complement Tiana Mangakahia, SU’s star point guard, and play off the ball.Before the season, Dennis wanted to ready Young for the minutes she’d earn. Every Tuesday or Wednesday until conference play began in late December, he drove five hours from New Jersey to the Melo Center. Young met him there after SU’s team practices and completed the same shooting program they’d done together for years. Sometimes, team managers stuck around and helped father and daughter work through some of Syracuse’s drills.A few months after the practices ended, Dennis sat in the Carrier Dome stands before Syracuse played then-No.17 Duke on Feb. 15. He saw the bounce in Young’s step, the fluidity of her shot, and knew the Blue Devils were in trouble.Once play began, he watched Young drain shot after shot around the 3-point line. In the first half, Young dropped four 3s and co-led the team with 12 points. She finished with a season-high 16 in an eventual 68-65 SU win.“I can see it as soon as it leaves her hand,” Dennis said. “… When she’s in a rhythm, that’s a wrap.”With the clock bleeding down in the third quarter and the Orange down a field goal, Young used a screen and drove inside. With three seconds left, the crowd rose to its feet, cheering. She flicked her head up, tricking her defender and gaining a step. Two seconds remained, and a gasp trickled through the stands. As the final second ticked off the clock, she flung the ball in the air between two extended hands.It hit the rim and swirled around. An electronic red square outlined the backboard. Young, now behind the net, stared at the rim as the ball slipped through.“It takes a lot of time,” Young said.  “It took me a while to feel like I’m 100 percent back to what I could do. I think I’m actually better.” Commentslast_img read more