Young learning to ignore the critics

The first three years of Patric Young's time in Gainesville have been spent hearing people outside the program wanting more. Whether it was fans, NBA Draft analysts or media, the perception is that Young hasn't reached his ceiling. And Billy Donovan doesn't want to hear about it. He wants his senior center to enjoy his last season at Florida and finish his career with another strong season.

The expectations aren't Young's fault. He came to Florida as a McDonald's All-American that was compared physically to Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, mostly because of his physique. Young is as strong as any player in college basketball, but that physique and his jovial personality grew into unrealistic expectations.

No one has seen it more than head coach Billy Donovan.

"I think one of the things Patric has had to deal with -- which has been really challenging for him and I feel bad for him -- is that he came out of high school very, very decorated and people start comparing him to other people. ‘He looks like Dwight Howard, he's supposed to play like Dwight Howard, he's supposed to do this, he's supposed to do that.' I think for Patric, he really feels good about the progress he has made over his three years here, but in a lot of ways, everybody always wants more from him," Donovan said. "They want to see him do more, score more, grab more rebounds."

Young spent his freshman year as a backup. The Gators had veterans in the frontcourt with Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus, so Young started just two games and provided energy off the bench. It was a perfect role for Young, who could give his best effort for a few minutes and then take a breather on the bench when the starters came back in the game.

He started just two games that season but blocked 31 shots -- one more than he would as a full-time starter the next season. His freshman year grew the expectations, as some mock drafts moved him into the top half of the first round -- but Young didn't want to leave. And as he would show through the next few years, that's still the case.

"I really love being in a position where I can impact other people with my presence and personality," Patric Young said about his life in college. "Even though I don't try to, I've been able to uplift people's spirits and enjoyed every second I've been here at the University of Florida."

Young has been the face of the Florida program since his sophomore year. He doesn't want to admit it, but even with other talented players that have come through the team, his personality draws fans to him. He's the fan favorite on the team.

Part of that is the reason that people outside the program always want more. His statistics in two years as a starter are very similar. As a sophomore, he averaged 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds. As a junior, he finished the year averaging 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds.

At this point in Young's career, the Gators know what they're going to get out of him on the floor. Donovan wants the Florida fan base to make sure they do, too, and appreciate that instead of always wanting more.

Young is starting to learn from what his head coach said and block out the external factors.

"I've dealt with expectations and pressure ever since I got here at the University of Florida. What I need to realize is that I am who I am. I'm going to work as hard as I can to be the best I can be. Patric Young isn't Dwight Howard. Patric Young isn't Amar'e Stoudemire. I'm just going to go out there and do the best I can for my team and do whatever I can to help us win."

That has always been the case for Young. He always wanted to be the best teammate possible, which is why he came off the bench during his freshman season as a McDonald's All-American with a complaint. When the team needs him to sacrifice offense to focus on offensive rebounding a little more, he'll do that.

But in that unselfish mindset have come the criticism and the desire for more production. Young used to listen to it. He'd read the articles and listen to the people on television talk about the Gators needing more from him. Sometimes that only made him press, but it has led him to a new mindset going into his senior season.

"I really just don't care about what anyone outside this program has to say about me," Young said. "I am what I am. No one knows what goes on inside of this program, how hard I've worked with my teammates and what we've gone through. Everyone goes through their own things to get to where they are, and I believe I've had one heck of a process to get to where I am now.

"That is what has affected me in the past. I cared too much about what people were saying, even though they have no idea what goes on within the dynamics of our team. My image -- whatever that may be -- it doesn't matter. What matter is, what do my peers think about me? That's the most important thing to me."

It's easier said than done for Young to avoid the outside criticism, but he says he's ready for it. And he has his teammates and coaches to help. Donovan was clear at media day what his expectations are for Young's senior season, and they don't have anything to do with what happens on the court.

"I want him to enjoy his senior year," Donovan said. "Last year I really felt that with the injuries to Will (Yeguete) and (Erik) Murphy battling some different issues, we probably had him playing too many minutes. Now with Damontre Harris now eligible to play, Dorian Finney-Smith eligible to play and hopefully Will back relatively soon, we'll at least have some depth and some length and size around him that we can rest him accordingly and appropriately. I'm not so sure we were able to do that last year as much as I would have liked."

There's just one goal on Young's mind heading into his final season. He's not concerned with a scoring uptick or pulling down more rebounds. He'll have help in the frontcourt to make the rebounding easier. He just wants to help that team win.

In all three of his seasons on campus, Young has been on a team that reached to Elite Eight only to see its season end. This year, he wants to play for and win a national title.

"I have high aspirations for this team this year," Young said. "I think we have a great level of connectedness. I think we can do it. I believe that we will do it."

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