Young Can Fuel Florida's Postseason

Patric Young's ankle has done plenty of damage this year. When it was keeping his minutes limited in games, it hurt the Gators in the paint with no strong defensive presence to play opposing big men. With the ankle now completely healed, it still managed to do damage mentally. The mental part of the game was the hardest for Young to overcome, but he showed signs of life Sunday against Kentucky.

"It's all mental for Patric," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said after the 74-59 loss to Kentucky. "I don't think there's anything wrong with him physically. I don't think there has been anything wrong with him physically for a while."

Those words go a long way to explaining the enigma that Young's play has become. The sophomore scored 21 points on 10-15 shooting from the field and pulled down nine rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.

When he steps on the court, there are barely more imposing figures in college basketball. Chiseled from head-to-toe, Young looks like he should dominate. Truth is, he probably should.

But for whatever reason, since he started the January 14th game at South Carolina on the bench because of the ankle problem, Young hasn't been the same.

He stole the show in the first half of the season. There was his dominant 25-point, 10-rebound performance in an early December win over Arizona. He made his way onto highlight shows every week by swatting shots into the crowd at will. That explosiveness hasn't been there since the injury occurred.

"I didn't feel my knee, didn't feel my ankle or anything like that," Patric Young said. "I was just able to finish. It's really encouraging. I think I did a better job communicating with our team."

For the first time in conference play, that explosiveness was there on Sunday. Sure it came late in the season after Florida fans spent the entire SEC schedule wondering where it had gone, but his emergence against the Wildcats produced some hope for Florida.

Will Yeguete's broken foot took away the Gators' best rebounder, but Young's resurgence could give the Gators more hope as the postseason begins next Friday with Florida's first game at the SEC Tournament.

"He played phenomenal," Florida point guard Erving Walker said. "Hopefully he can continue that for the rest of the season. When Pat plays like that, I think that takes our team to another level."

Without Yeguete, the Gators will need that in every game from Young or the season will come to an end soon. Young admitted after the game that he needs to come every day with the mindset he used against Kentucky. The sophomore came in knowing that Florida would need him, especially with Kentucky center Anthony Davis projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft.

For the second time this season, including the second game of the year at Ohio State against Jared Sullinger, Young took the floor against a projected first round big man and looked like he belonged.

"He was a really big bright spot for us," Donovan said. "We had to have some kind of answer at the basket with (Anthony) Davis and (Terrence) Jones performing. Patric did as well answering them as is possible. If we didn't get anything from Murphy and Patric on the front line, we could've bee in a world of hurt."

The ‘world of hurt' is still a possibility this season. The Yeguete injury placed a lot of pressure on Young for the rest of the season.

Being able to move past that pressure will come in Young's head. Donovan said the sophomore has struggled this season when he convinced himself of something, in this case an injury, and would "deal with it as truth," even if the injury wasn't really there. Part of it came from Young's inexperience in dealing with injuries.

That's why Donovan explained coaching Young this season as "rewarding for me and frustrating for me." Whether it's maturity or mental toughness— that becomes the biggest part for the Florida coaching staff to help Young with.

"I have to do the same thing every day," Young said of how to carry his performance into the rest of the year. "It's just a mentality. I can do that every day. I just have to come in with the right mindset in every practice and game. My teammates were just able to find me. Hopefully I can take this into the SEC Tournament."

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