Thaddeus Young is a complex teenager who isn't easily excited. He's got a drive to win championships. "I think about what it takes to get there," Young said. "I ask myself what it takes to get there and what [the players] did to put themselves in that position."
Guys with the talent that this 6-foot-8 wing out of Mitchell High in Memphis possesses tend to have single-track minds. They're pondering their next basketball move be it to college or the NBA. Not Thaddeus.
See, Young treats basketball and academics with the same approach and that's not merely lip service either. He's serious about academics because that's a part of who he is. "I take a few hours out of my day to work on my game and a few hours out of the day to study," Young says.
It's safe to assume that the kid with the 4.1 GPA doesn't need study hall. Heck, he could teach classes in study hall but religiously he goes to the extra session. Why? Because he wants to learn.
"What can I do to learn something else?" Young asks. "In math, I ask if I could learn something that we aren't doing already but something that we'll do later in the school year. I try to get an early start on my school work."
Over the course of the next few months, college coaches are going to preach to him about academics. Likely, their verbiage will go in one ear and out the other. Recruiters can make their pitch, but Young is going to do his own homework, count on it.
"If they say I'll graduate, it's not their choice," Young said. "It's me and my teacher's choice; it's our choice or my choice. I'm going to work hard.
"When [recruiters] start talking like that I don't listen to that. When they ask me if I have any questions I ask them to send me everything on their business management program. That's how I found out my information."
For the record, Young is still researching. He didn't know that Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business is the top ranked program in America per U.S. News. Trust me, that kind of information is important to this young man.
When it comes time to pick his college, Young is going to go over the academic programs with a fine tooth comb. Nothing will get by him. He wants academics, diversity and basketball, probably in that order.
Diversity? When's the last time a Top 10 player in America listed diversity as a key factor in his college decision? What is diversity to Young?
"Diversity means to me having people from different origins," Young said. "It means Russian, German, Japanese, Korean, not just Americans."
How's this for diversity? Tennessee, Memphis, Connecticut, North Carolina, Clemson, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Mississippi have all been in to see him this year. That's 12 different schools from 5 different leagues. By definition, he's got a diverse group of schools following him.
Missing from the list, but often mentioned in connection with Young is Duke. Young says he's received correspondence from the Devils but that's about it. "I haven't had any contact with them but they send letters and cards all the time."
It's hard for the average fan to understand that Young, despite the accolades and interest from college recruiters, isn't thinking about his recruitment. Not now, not in a week, not in a month. Right now it's just not on his mind.
"After the season is over I'll have a month to myself before AAU season really kicks off and I'll just think about it then," Young said. "I think a month should be long enough to get my five schools in order and get what I want to do with my life in order." A conservative guess is that by the end of summer, Young will be ready to release a list of 5 programs.
At this point, Young sees no separation in the schools. "All the schools say the same thing right now. Really nobody has made an impression right now. They basically all say the same thing about their school."
If you are a Top 10 prospect in what appears to be a loaded Class of 2006, at some point you are going to be hit with the NBA question. Young's heard it all before and he's not buying it.
"I hear the rumors. People say I won't step a foot in college and if I do it'll be for one or two years. I just look at that and say those people don't know me. Even the recruiters think I'm crazy if I go to college. I just say ‘well, I've got to be crazy then.'"
"I plan on going to school four years because I see myself there for 4 years. The world doesn't. People outside of my home, they see me going to college one year or no college.
"If I don't get my degree it's because I really have something to do for my family," Young said. "Regardless of anything, I'm going to educate myself."
Fast forward ahead 15 years. Young sees himself involved in sports, maybe as an agent. He wants to be around the game.
However, for now he enjoys ball, books and spending time on the weekends with Shekinah, his girlfriend. There will be a window of opportunity for recruiters to make their pitch, but they best come prepared and organized because Young would expect nothing less.
Young will be ready to listen, take notes and ask questions about academics and maybe even basketball because that's what Thaddeus Young is all about: learning.