The term resilience is thrown around a lot, even more in the sporting arena. Mitch Young embodies the word showing that the bumps along the way only lead to new and greater opportunities.
The Pick and Roll spoke with the Cairns Taipans forward this week about how he felt heading into his sixth season in the NBL, as well as everything it’s taken for him to get there
At 28, Young understands the career of a professional athlete is limited, but he aims to compete at the highest level as long as his body allows, while having a lot of fun.
“Professional sport gives you an appreciation on how lucky we are to get paid to play a child’s game, something we both love and enjoy,” said Young. “There is only a small window for our careers so I feel very fortunate to be able to continue to do it as long as we can.”
Attending the Australian Institute of Sport for three years, he went on to play four years of college basketball with Saint Mary’s College of California alongside, and becoming friends with, Milwaukee Buck and Australian Boomer, Matthew Dellavedova. His NBL experience has since spanned three clubs: Cairns Taipans, Townsville Crocodiles and the Brisbane Bullets. His stint with the Taipans led to the club’s first minor premiership, but they lost to the New Zealand Breakers in that season’s grand final series. A two-year deal with the Crocodiles was cut short after the team was forced to drop out from the league due to financial issues, leaving him without a team. It was just another minor challenge in his career.
The forward would play for the Bullets’ two seasons back in the NBL, with 2016 a breakout year for him. Yet during the of 2017 pre-season he was struck down with glandular fever, resulting in a season which saw him relegated to the bench. This was only another blip on the radar and he is ready for a boom year in 2018.
“I think I still have a lot to give to the NBL,” Young explained. “In my first year with Brisbane, I feel I really broke out, playing some pretty good ball with a decent off-season. Then in the pre-season I got sick and just couldn’t shake it and just couldn’t get back. After struggling last season, I just wanted to get back to feeling like myself and playing how I know I can play and finding that form again.
“The season is an intense rollercoaster of ups and downs, so you really have to be able to have a great perspective and understand where you are heading. Take care and respect the process, but also enjoy the ride and give yourself the best chance to be there come finals time.”
Young also has rich experience in the Queensland Basketball League with both the Cairns Marlins (2014) and the Logan Thunder after he moved south for the 2015 season. This year he had a dominant season, bagging a game average of 22.7 points and league-leading 12.28 rebounds per game, placing him right in the MVP conversation and earning All-League Team selection. The Thunder went deep into the playoffs under the guidance of new coach Luke Cann with a potent attacking style that players such as Young thrived in.
It launched a renaissance of Young, who showed everybody what he had to offer. He is versatile and has put in everything to become regarded as a vital workhorse week in week out.
In July, Young signed with the Taipans, returning to the club for a second stint and delivering an opportunity for his recent success. He explained his decision to leave the Bullets and turn the page on a career which has been revitalised and now ready to strike.
“The way things played out in Brisbane last year it was just time for a change,” added Young. “It was too good of an opportunity that Mike Kelly came to me with, and I thought it was the best fit. I enjoyed my time up here last time and I am so excited to be a part of a new chapter of Taipans basketball.
“I just want to have fun playing again. I think we have a great team! I want to go as far with them that we can go – I really believe we have the tools we need to take the championship.
“It’s going to be a close season and every game will matter. The way Mike Kelly [Taipans head coach] wants to play will suit me greatly. Our front court is very versatile with the pieces that we have and I am ready to do what I do – bring energy and play hard and give Mike everything he needs.”
Kelly is a coach not to be underestimated, and along with Jamie O’Loughlin as his assistant, the duo have established a roster that they hope will translate into a strong 2018/19 NBL campaign.
“We have three great imports and a really strong local contingent to match,” stated Young. “To have Jamie O and Mike there it really gives us the experience to really help give us the best chance with success.”
As head coach of the Cairns Marlins in the QBL, O’Loughlin showed his passion for potent attack, with his team thriving in being tagged as underdogs. Expect this style to be what we see in this Taipans side, and it was something that excited the O’Loughlin.
“Mitch brings a lot to the table,” shared O’Loughlin. “Experienced NBL player, toughness, team first attitude and a drive to take his game to the next level. He will no doubt grow in his role throughout the season but has already shown intense strengths in defending the post, rebounding at both ends and screening for our shooters.”
Earlier in the pre-season, Young sprained his ankle. To have worked so hard for so long following the revitalised season with the Thunder, this could have been a cruel twist of fate. However he has since fully recovered, and will not let his ankle – or any other setback – affect him.
“It feels really good! It was not too bad,” explained Young. “I had two weeks off to get it right but it has come back good and I am looking forward to getting into it and our first game being back in Brisbane against the Bullets.”
As a competitive professional athlete who has learnt to back up between both NBL and QBL seasons we also discussed how he eased between the two while also expanding his career.
“I try to give myself the best chance in every aspect,” Young would go on to explain. “I try to eat the right foods all the time and make sure I balance recovery, training and all the little aspects that I need to extend my career and perform on the court. I ensure I listen to my body and it tells me what I need at each point of my career and life – enjoy it but be smart about your preparations.”
For round one this week we see the Taipans return to Brisbane to take on Young’s old team on a court he is very familiar with.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun because having played there last season I really love playing on that court,” Young enthused. “I will have a lot of family in the crowd and I am a competitive person, it’s the first round, new team and it’s all exciting. Once the ball goes up everybody will have a point to prove but I am ready for a great season.”
Even beyond all of the injuries and obstacles along the road for Mitch, he has maintained his energetic approach and remains down-to-earth.
“Work hard, play hard and enjoy every minute,” said Young on explaining his outlook to thew game and in life. “I feel I am still in my prime and still have a lot to give so I am just excited. For me it’s one season at a time. I think that’s the only way you can think and enjoy what is coming at each corner.”