St. Thomas benefits now from encouragement by Taylor Young's family.
Taylor Young did not immediately embrace the game of basketball, a lack of passion that was hardly in keeping with her family values.
"I remember Taylor, when she was young, her dad telling her during a game that she had to go out on the court and play,'' said Bob Erdman, her grandfather and a legendary high school coach. "He told her, 'You can't let your teammates down.' ''
Erdman still appears mystified as he recounts the story, although he feels much better now since Taylor hasn't let teammates down for years. The 5-11 sophomore forward, a former Edina prep star, has helped the University of St. Thomas reach this weekend's Division III Final Four by leading the Tommies in both scoring (13.5 ppg) and assists (2.7 apg). Young is also second on the team in steals and blocked shots.
The Tommies (30-1) face Illinois Wesleyan (26-5) at 6 p.m. Friday at Holland, Mich., with the winner facing the other semifinal winner -- Amherst (31-0) or George Fox (31-0) -- at 6 p.m. Saturday for the title.
That Young eventually warmed to the game is less surprising than her early reluctance. Rodney Young, her father, played collegiately at Northeast Missouri State (now Truman State University). Erdman is in the Gustavus Hall of Fame as a player and the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame as a coach (Luverne, St. Cloud Tech and Alexander Ramsey). Young's uncle, Paul Biewen, played at Gustavus and is an assistant girls' coach at Edina, where cousin Katybeth Biewen is the senior floor-leader of a state 4A tournament team.
"[Taylor has] been dragged to a lot of basketball camps and spent a lot of time on the court,'' St. Thomas coach Ruth Sinn said. "And it shows in the way she plays the game.''
Young's early memories of basketball are of a growth spurt that left her lanky and feeling she was uncoordinated. "Plus,'' she said, smiling, "I didn't really focus hard, or anything like that.''
The idea that she would mature into an all-conference college player?
"I just remember my dad telling me that he didn't think I was going to be any type of athlete,'' she said.
True, said Rodney Young, although not because he ever thought his youngest daughter lacked talent. "She was just always off doing something different, doing something else,'' Young said, laughing.
Although she picked up her family's passion for basketball, she plays with a different mindset than her father and grandfather did.
"I can tell you her appetite to score was not anywhere close to what ours was,'' Rodney said. He's laughing again.
Sinn has absolutely no problem with that.
"Her contribution to this team is much more than scoring,'' the UST coach said. "Yes, she's our top scorer, but her defense and her passing are what makes her so special. She'll do whatever it takes to win.''
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