CHATHAM, Va. -- Korleone Young is anticipating the risky jump from high school to the NBA without the cushion of a college degree. But the 19-year-old won't have to go it alone.
No matter what happens, Kim Young will be around to lift his spirits -- just like she did in second grade when he fell out of a tree and broke his arm, or when he was too awkward and embarrassed to dribble a basketball, or the times he vowed to quit basketball.
She was by her son's side again this past week when the 6-foot-7 forward decided to bypass college and enter the NBA's June draft. If he makes it in the pros, she'll be living with him and looking after him.
"She's stuck by me, through everything," Young said at Hargrave Military Academy, where he's finishing his senior year.
Young, a 41-year-old assembly plant worker, gave birth to her only son and raised him in Wichita, Kan., with help from her parents.
She played basketball in high school, and Young calls her "my first coach."
They couldn't afford a basketball goal, so Young used buckets to practice shooting. Later, they took the spokes out of a bicycle tire rim and fastened the modified goal to a tree.
That was an awkward period for Young. He was so tall and gangly in elementary school that whenever he dribbled, the smaller kids would steal the ball. So he quit dribbling, and would immediately pass or shoot when he got the ball.
He was always intensely competitive, and several times after his team lost a game, Young came home crying and said he was quitting basketball and joining a football team.
"I'd say, baby, you're not going to lose them all, and you're not a quitter," Kim Young said. "I've always put that in his head. The next day, he'd be fine."
In middle school, Young got the knack of dribbling and his grandfather gave him the surprise of his young life.
"When I came home from school, he told me, go out in the backyard and feed the dogs," Young said. "I knew something was up. I thought I was getting a puppy."
Charles Young, a basketball star at Oklahoma, had built a real basketball goal for his grandson.
"I came inside and gave him a big hug," Young said.
In the eighth grade, Young grew two inches to 6-4, and his domination of the Wichita basketball scene began.
Young scored 1,357 points in his first three years of high school, ranking fourth on the City League's career scoring list, and he was a Parade Magazine All-American in his junior year.
But the following summer, the persistent telephone calls from college recruiters and reporters, and the pressure of being a local celebrity, became too much for Young.
"They were calling every night," Kim Young said.
In July, Hargrave coach Scott Shepherd gave Young a call after watching him play in a basketball tournament.
Young said he wanted to get away from home so he could concentrate on his studies and improve his game, and Shepherd convinced him that the insulated environment and tough competition at Hargrave was just what he needed.
This season, Young averaged 29.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists for the Tigers' postgraduate team, which plays junior colleges, college junior varsity teams and a few of the nation's top high schools.
Shepherd said Young dominated the court like no player in the 6-year-old program ever had.
He was among 10 finalists for the Naismith Award, given to the top high school player in the country, and was a first-team selection on the Parade and McDonalds All-American teams.
Young said the structured environment at the tiny private school helped him mature as a player and a person. He improved his two weakest points, outside shooting and passing, and became more disciplined.
"It made me step up my game," Young said.
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