Jahii Carson and Joseph Young Showing Early ImprovementPosted by Andrew Murawa on November 21st, 2013
Coming into the year, we knew Jahii Carson was going to be among the best guards in the conference, if not one of the best guards in the entire country. But, there was a reason he came back to school instead of trying his hand at an NBA career immediately after his delayed freshman campaign at Arizona State. Meanwhile, up in Oregon, once Joseph Young was declared immediately eligible after transferring in from Houston, we knew he was going to be an excellent shooter, something he has repeatedly proven over his basketball career. But we weren’t sure how complete of a guard he could be. There are still four months of basketball left this year for both of these guys to show who they really are, but today, we’ll look at the early returns.
There wasn’t a whole lot to complain about in Carson’s freshman year in Tempe. He led the Sun Devils in scoring and assists, played relatively under control and got his teammates involved, but still left plenty of room in the game to find his own shot. He was also solid defensively and therefore it was no coincidence that ASU went from a 10-win squad in the year he was watching from the bench to a 22-win outfit last year. Still, despite all his tremendous quickness and athleticism, this was a 5’10” point guard whose jump shot was best described as “streaky.” Sure, he could knock it down – he dropped in five of nine attempts over the course of three impressive games in the Pac-12 Tournament, for example – but it was erratic, to the tune of just 32 percent over the course of the year. He spent the offseason dedicated to, among others things, tightening up that jumper.
Early indications are that he has. So far this year he’s hit eight of his 14 attempts from deep, and on Tuesday night against UNLV, he knocked down a pair of threes over the course of three possessions to stop the bleeding at a time when ASU was in danger of getting run out of the Thomas & Mack Center. The impressive thing about both of those shots was the fact that UNLV was preventing Carson from going to his dominant right hand, so he went left and drilled the three, something he couldn’t do very well last season. Almost across the board, Carson’s statistics are up. He’s using roughly the same number of possessions thus far, but his shooting percentages are up, his assist rate is up slightly, and his turnover rate has been cut. Beware the fallacy of judging those numbers based on a small sample size, because one look at his already impressive game and it is clear that Carson has upped his game in a big way this year.
As for Young, he was mired in relative obscurity in Conference USA his first two years of college ball. But one thing that stood out when you did catch a glimpse of him – man, was that stroke ever pure. He drilled 55 threes during his freshman year at a 38.2 percent clip and hit 83.7 percent from the line. His sophomore year, not only did those percentages go up (66 threes at 42 percent and 87.5 percent from the line), but Young began to trust his game off the bounce enough to use it to earn more free throws – he shot 111 more three throws last year in Houston. This year, again, it looked like more of the same. His proven ability to connect from just about anywhere out to the NBA three-point line with little more than a glimpse at the rim frees him up for the drive and, as a result, he’s getting to the line at an even greater rate this year. Once he gets there, well, let’s put it this way: Dude is still beating himself up over the one free throw he’s missed this year (30-of-31 – 96.8%).
Playing for a coach like Dana Altman, it isn’t enough to be able to just score the ball. Never you mind, because Young has also shown himself thus far to be an adept ballhawk, capable of jumping passing lanes or sneaking up behind preoccupied ball-handlers to poke the ball loose. In the 62 games he played in Houston, he produced a grand total of 45 steals. In three in Eugene, he’s already got six. Throw in the fact that the junior almost never turns the ball over and you’ve got a hyper-efficient guard who, right now, should probably be the favorite to join Carson in the all-Pac-12 backcourt come March.