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July 9, 2010Patric Young had just capped his high school career by swatting away shot after shot in the Florida Class 2A state championship game when a defeated opponent paid him quite a compliment.
"[He's] a mini-Dwight Howard," Tampa Prep senior Jay Bowie told reporters after his team's 63-46 loss to Jacksonville Providence in the final.
It wasn't the first time someone made that comparison. And it certainly won't be the last.
"I've been hearing that all the time," said Young, who signed with Florida and arrived on campus this week. "I'm used to it. Knowing that people compare me to Dwight Howard, that makes you feel good because he's already in the league. It helps me to know I'm hopefully on the right track so far."
The comparisons are a bit premature. Howard went directly from high school to the NBA's Orlando Magic, where he led the league in rebounds and blocks and was named the NBA's defensive player of the year in each of the past two seasons. Young hasn't played a second of college basketball and remains unpolished, particularly on the offensive end of the floor.
But it's already apparent that the two Florida frontcourt forces rely on similar styles. Both have physical games that allow them to play dominant defense.
Young, the No. 27 prospect in the 2010 recruiting class, averaged 14.9 points, 12.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks while helping Providence go 31-1 this past season. He blocked seven shots in the state championship game and helped hold Tampa Prep to 29 percent shooting. In the McDonald's All-American Game, Young had seven points and nine rebounds in just 15 minutes.
"Without a doubt, he'll give Florida a dimension they haven't had since they lost Al Horford -- a physical sort of kick-butt type of player on the interior who can really defend the low post, protect the rim and be a really strong rebounder," said Jerry Meyer, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com.
What's the secret to Young's shot-blocking prowess?
"It's kind of natural," Young said. "It's got to be an instinct thing. You've got to know when you're going to foul a guy and when you're not going to foul a guy."
His toughness also might have come naturally. Young is the son of Robert Young, a former tight end for the USFL's Jacksonville Bulls and Tampa Bay Bandits.
Young didn't follow his father's path. His parents wouldn't allow him to play football because they didn't think he had the frame for it and they were concerned about the possibility of injury. Young instead played baseball for much of his youth before deciding to concentrate on basketball.
But he still has found a way to bring his dad's football mentality to basketball. As Robert Young describes his son's mental toughness, he can't help but recall the message he often used to receive from Cy McClairen, his former college football coach at Bethune-Cookman: "You're going to get hit anyway, so you might as well catch it."
That's the philosophy Young takes to the basketball court. He's unafraid to mix it up in the paint and tries to block or alter every shot that comes his way.
"He has that attitude," Robert Young said. "He has a great work ethic. He loves to work. He loves to get better."
Of course, it's hard for anyone Young's size to feel intimidated in any situation. Young's 6-foot-9, 222-pound frame allowed him to physically overwhelm most of his high school opponents.
It wasn't merely his height that left many opponents in awe. He also has the type of physique that explained many of those comparisons to Howard.
"You usually either get those skinny post guys or big guys who don't move well," Providence coach Jim Martin said. "Very rarely do you see a specimen like [Young] at the high school level. I'd hate to even guess his body fat, but he looks like a guy chiseled out of stone.
"I've had strong kids before who looked like Tarzan and played like Jane. Patric's not like that at all."
Young's physical gifts make him one of the most promising post players in the 2010 recruiting class, and it came as no surprise that he signed with Florida. Young said his grandparents have owned Florida football season tickets for about 15 years.
Although he often joined them at the football games and took notice when Florida's basketball team won consecutive national titles in 2006 and '07, Young said he kept an open mind during the recruiting process. He eventually decided to stay close to home because of Florida coach Billy Donovan's reputation for sending players to the NBA.
"It was my dream school, but I didn't want to just focus on one school," Young said. "I wanted to know what was best for me. It turned out that Florida was my dream school and was the best fit for me as well."
He now is working on making a successful transition to college. Young won't have as much of a physical advantage over SEC post players. His shot-blocking skills should continue to make him a force on defense, but he could need some time to develop on offense.
Even though he played well enough in high school to become a McDonald's All-American, Young wasn't a dominant scorer. He averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds per game as a junior at Jacksonville's Paxon High School before compiling 14.9 points per game with Providence his senior year.
Martin noted that Young already has refined a baby hook that gives him at least one offensive weapon, but he still may need to develop a go-to move.
"Scoring will never be his bread and butter," Meyer said, "but I think he will provide points and has a chance to be a double-double player down the road."
The good news for Young is that he doesn't have to immediately take over as Florida's top frontcourt performer. The Gators return 6-10 senior Vernon Macklin and 6-8 senior Alex Tyus, who combined for 22.4 points and 12.4 rebounds per game last season.
Young can provide defense and rebounding while playing alongside the two seniors this season before stepping into a leadership role as a sophomore.
"He's a guy that I think is a very, very aggressive player," Donovan said. "He's very, very physical. I think his offense will grow and get better as time goes on, but I think the one thing he brings to our team right away is great energy. He plays with great passion and brings a physical presence, and he rebounds his position well."
That much is apparent to anyone who has worked with Young. He's been a star performer with the work ethic of a role player. Martin draws parallels to a couple of blue-collar performers known primarily for their toughness and passion.
"He's a tough kid who gets after it and plays hard on both ends," Martin said. "He reminds me of a Ben Wallace and a Charles Oakley."
Young is humbled when he hears Howard references. He still remembers the one time he met the Magic star. It was a bit of a reality check.
"When he met Dwight and had a chance to stand near him and see how big he was, that kind of told him he has a long way to go," Robert Young recalled.
Young certainly has quite a way to go. But he's definitely on the right track.
Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.