Senior Alex Young’s first season as a starter for Ashland is better than she imagined.
Make that three times better.
A post player for the Kittens junior varsity team just two years ago, Young spent last season as a backup to accomplished shooting guard Kaylyn Gambill before quitting the team in January.
Young quickly regretted that decision, and she’s returned this season to become one of Kentucky’s top 3-point shooting threats.
The 5-foot-10 player is averaging 3.0 triples per game — tied for third statewide according to KHSAA statistics. Every bit as impressive is her 41.4 percent accuracy from long range.
It’s no accident, according to Ashland coach Bill Bradley.
“Her stroke is almost textbook,” Bradley said. “Gambill, Kim Strait and Ali Wilcox all made hundreds of 3s for us in the past. But as far as form, getting your feet set and stroke, Alex is the most fluid.”
Young’s shooting from beyond the arc has factored significantly in a 12-4 start for the Kittens, who are trying to reach the Sweet Sixteen for the third consecutive year.
“She’s having a great year,” Bradley said. “Alex is almost like a specialist, a shooting specialist. Without her, we would see a lot more zones to keep Alexis and Mykasa (Robinson sisters) from penetrating. Her shooting has made us a lot more versatile.”
Like Gambill, who is enjoying a successful freshman season at Rio Grande, Young has been given a “total green light” by Bradley to pull the trigger.
“I stressed that all through the preseason,” he said. “Alex took it and ran with it.”
Young began the season with a bang, making 5-of-11 3s to lead Ashland with 17 points in a home-opening win over Rowan County.
The performance was a huge confidence-builder for Young, who needed just that despite playing well during the summer and preseason.
“I didn’t gain a lot of confidence until that first game,” she said. “Then it all started coming together.”
Two weeks later, Young nailed seven 3-pointers in 11 tries against Fleming County. She finished with a season-high 23 points as Ashland rolled 70-49.
“It’s the first game that I saw Alexis knowing where Alex was for the whole game,” Bradley said.
For her own part, Young knows she wouldn’t be anywhere without her teammates.
“It takes everybody working together,” Young said. “It’s a huge team effort. I feel like I have a chemistry with A-Rob.”
Robinson, a junior point guard being recruited by several top Division I teams, often draws extra defenders and then dishes to open teammates.
Young received a surprise during the Christmas holidays. After she shot 4-for-6 from long range in a 14-point performance against Gallatin County in the Gateway Holiday Classic at Montgomery County, Bradley told Young someone was waiting to talk to her outside Ashland’s locker room.
How did Young react when she found out it was Midway College’s head coach and an assistant?
“I was shocked,” she said. ”It was awesome.”
As a result of the meeting, Young made an overnight visit to the Kentucky NAIA school this weekend to participate in a workout and also attend a Midway game.
“It’s big for her, just to grow up some and meet new people,” Bradley said. “It’s a little recognition, and she deserves it. Alex is just a great kid, very personable, and very funny.”
Young got into basketball as a first-grader through the Upward program. Her father, Dwayne, played high school basketball at Boyd County and has worked with Alex through the years.
She’s averaging 10.3 points so far this season as Ashland’s No. 3 scorer, behind A-Rob and post player Haley-Sue Foutch.
“Everybody talks about Alex’s shooting,” Bradley said. “She’s a very good passer, and her turnover ratio is low. She doesn’t make many mental mistakes.”
Young also averages 3.3 rebounds.
With 10 games remaining on the Kittens’ schedule, Bradley would like to see Young bump her rebounding average closer to six per game, be more solid defensively and “get a little meaner.”
Her overall growth process continues.
“Mentally, I think I’m way tougher now than I was before,” she said.
Ashland has a makeup game Tuesday at home against Greenup County, followed by a Thursday showdown at sixth-ranked East Carter.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.