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Young staying confident as he refines outside shot

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James Young is averaging 14.2 points 17 games into his freshman season. (Chet White, UK Athletics) James Young is averaging 14.2 points 17 games into his freshman season. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
James Young had never really thought much about his shooting stroke. Before he got to Kentucky he had always, well, just shot the basketball.

Now, Young is more aware of his mechanics. He can feel when he doesn't keep his shoulders forward. He knows when he jumps or lands or just one foot.

"I think about it a lot recently, how I'm shooting," Young said. "I've just gotta clear my mind a little bit and just let it go."

It's not that Young has been ineffective. The freshman guard is averaging 14.2 points and getting to the foul line nearly five times per game.

"I know he's not shooting at the percentage that he would like, but he's putting the ball in the basket," assistant coach John Robic said. "He's just creative in the way he (scores)."

Nonetheless, the Rochester Hills, Mich., native with a reputation as a knockdown shooter is shooting just 32.5 percent from 3-point range as No. 14/14 UK (13-4, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) prepares to host Texas A&M (12-5, 3-1 SEC) at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The tougher competition he's facing at the college level has something to do with that.

"They play a lot more defense than they did back in high school, so it'll probably affect me a little bit," Young said. "I've just gotta stay confident in my shot."

So far, losing confidence has been no issue for Young. Though the shots haven't always fallen, Young has not stopped shooting. That's the way John Calipari wants it.

"He gave me the green light to shoot so whenever I'm open I'm just going to keep shooting it," Young said. "I've just gotta knock them down."

To do that, Young needs to strike a balance behind clear-headed confidence and awareness of his mechanics. There's only one way to get there.

"Get in the gym and practice," Robic said.

Young is working on that, but he's making plenty of plays in the meantime. He made 2-of-5 3s on Saturday as UK shot 7-of-16 (43.8 percent) from deep in a win over Tennessee. Young also made a game-tying 3 near the end of overtime at Arkansas after missing one earlier in the same possession.

"The shot that he made at Arkansas, the one that Andrew (Harrison) made at Arkansas, were big shots, and it showed us something," Robic said.

Young, however, doesn't need to hit 3s to score. More than 54 percent of his points this season have come on either shots from inside the arc or at the line, oftentimes in unconventional ways that remind Robic -- who filled in for Coach Cal at Monday's pregame press conference -- of a former player now playing for the Charlotte Bobcats.

"He reminds me of the kid we had at Memphis, Chris Douglas-Roberts," Robic said. "Just a little unorthodox. It doesn't look like it's going in, but somehow it finds a way to go in."

Young expects to continue making those shots, but he's also challenging himself to find a more consistent form from outside.

"It's just about getting better every day," Young said. "That's what I just came here to do."

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