Mitch Young talks NBL retirement, and transition from court time to board room
It's Tuesday morning, 9:00am. Cornubia Park Sports Centre provides the setting of many tough training sessions, hard fought battles and well deserved triumphs on the court. Mitch Young sits at his office, in the club where he cut his teeth as a junior.
At eleven years of age, the big man first showed signs of his talent while playing in the junior Thunderball competition. He gained initial attention when he was able to dunk. After a single game, he was moved to the bigger court, serving as the first step towards what would become a solid NBL career.
His journey would see him play at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) for three seasons leading into a four year college stint at Saint Mary’s. During his time at college, he would be selected as a starter as well as qualifying for the NCAA tournament three out of his four years there, including a run to the Sweet 16.
His time with the Gaels would serve as a platform that launched him into the NBL where he enjoyed six years, playing 163 games across three clubs – Cairns Taipans (2013-2015, 2018), Townsville Crocodiles (2015-2016) and Brisbane Bullets (2016-2018).
Young sits at his desk, reserved, but clearly happy and re-energised as he contemplates the next stage of his life. Having seen him on the court multiple times, I enter our interview as a true fan; not only of the 6'9" Young’s playing style, but everything he represents. A loyal clubman, the kind of player every team wants when the going gets tough, and you’re down on the scoreboard.
Last week, Young announced his retirement from the NBL, a fortnight out from his 29th birthday. This came not long after he had been named as the new General Manager for the club he loves, the Logan Basketball Association.
With a trademark attitude known for his resilience and reliability, we spoke about what his career meant and why he came to the decision to retire at this time.
“It was always my goal to play in the NBL when I was growing up," Young explained. "I came out of college and signed that two year deal with the Taipans, and I realised how awesome it was and hoped to keep it going for as long as I could.
“The last two seasons were really tough. With Cairns last year, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for me in the way the team was put together. Even when losing they continued to stick with the same rotations. The year before that with Brisbane, having glandular fever during the preseason really stopped me from getting back to where I was at and what I knew I was capable of. It really was draining and mentally tough. I made a decision with where I was at, and with this opportunity coming up, I weighed up my options and realised the time was right.”
With a career which saw him going from contract to contract, this also weighed heavily in making his decision.
“When you’re in the back end of your twenties and still going from contract to contract and moving around, its tough to plan and live your life one year at a time," he added. "With my partner Hayley [Cassell], we never knew where we were going to be but knew we wanted to settle in South East Queensland, so that was a big part of it also.”
In a career that saw him play with such a range of star Australian and import players, it was a hard challenge to choose three that held significance within his career. Needless to say, one stood out above all others.
“Delly [Matthew Dellavedova] would be number one – we played three years at the AIS together, and then four years at St Mary’s," explained Young. "Obviously playing with your best mate and how good of a competitor he is and how much better he made me play and look beside him, he will always be my favourite teammate.
“Omar Samhan [Egyptian Premier League and Baltic League champion]. We played together at St Mary's and also had one year at the Townsville Crocodiles (2015). He made me and all of his team mates better. Just an ultimate competitor and great bloke.
“The third would be Anthony Petrie. We had two seasons at the Bullets together and the way he goes about everything as a player throughout his career along with just who he is as a person is just great. I really enjoyed our time together and Peach would definitely stand out.”
In a career of extreme highs and lows, it is clear what Young will miss the most, now he is retired.
“Being in an elitist environment," shared Young. "Just being around people everyday that are just trying to be a better version of themselves in an environment where everything is geared towards making you successful and improving. It’s not always like that but I always hope to have that mindset – be a better person than I was yesterday and keep improving.”
He now is tasked with taking everything he has learnt on the court into the boardroom as he continues the amazing work that former GM Joshua Pascoe, now Basketball Queensland’s Chief Operating Officer, Luke Cann, men’s head coach and Basketball Queensland State Performance Manager, have undertaken.
“I feel I am the perfect candidate for this job and there is nobody that knows this club better," Young enthused. "This opportunity to lead the club – the one I’ve played the past five seasons with the QBL and all of my junior basketball with – and give back to this club and the people in this great community, I know how lucky I am to be able to do that.
“I’ve been down there during training and I have seen some of the juniors we have coming through. They are so raw but I get so excited thinking about what we can do as a club and what they can become as players.
“I can bring a lot of experience from my journey to show them what they can do and I hope they’ll be able to relate because I am from here and I’ve been where they are now.”
Young acknowledged the past few weeks has been a struggle, as he adjusts to balance both roles as a player and GM as the QBL seasons heads into post-season, but is confident in his ability to do this into the future.
“I still want to keep playing in the QBL and that will keep that passion alive being out on the floor," Young said. "As long as the committee is happy with that, I will keep playing for the Thunder.
"If I was able to get a QBL championship for Logan that would be the cherry on top of everything. That’s the goal, and if I achieve that, I may put it [retire] full time.
“I love this club. I’ve been around a lot of basketball programs and clubs and its rare to find a club with so many great people. A genuine family who care about each other and will do anything to see this place succeed.”
For Mitch Young, the journey has come full circle. From a kid starting at the club to a return as their General Manager.
“My aim here, is to make Logan Basketball the powerhouse I know it can be.”