February 5, 2008

Young taking care of ball for Cats

Go ahead. Take a look. Certainly No. 20 Kansas State has had several notable individual performances through its first six games of the Big 12 Conference season. Bill Walker drains five 3-pointers one night. Michael Beasley goes for 33 points and 15 rebounds the next. Then there's Blake Young and among his exploits, the senior shooting guard has pieced together a trend that has gone overlooked by almost everyone except for his teammates.

While Young is tied for sixth in the Big 12 in averaging 3.17 assists per league game, he has committed three -- count them -- three turnovers in the 185 total minutes that he has been on the court in six Big 12 contests.

Three turnovers in 185 minutes. Almost nobody -- save the New York Giants' David Tyree -- has been better at taking care of the ball lately.

"That's big," Walker said. "Blake is making smart decisions. Three turnovers in 185 minutes? I don't know if I've heard of that. What are D.J. Augustin's numbers like?"

Of course, Augustin, the star sophomore point guard for No. 12 Texas and a prime candidate for All-Big 12 first team honors, averages 5.90 assists overall, including 5.33 during the league season, both tops in the Big 12. But with due respect to wildly talented Augustin, who has 32 assists and 14 turnovers against league competition, his assist-to-turnover ratio (2.29), while totally respectable, isn't tops on the chart.

Young, who is tied with freshman reserve point guard Jacob Pullen with a team-leading 19 assists, averages 0.5 turnovers per game in the Big 12, or one turnover in every 62 minutes on the court. Young's current assist-to-turnover ratio (6.33) trumps the competition so far during the league season, ahead of runners-up Kansas' Mario Chalmers (3.78) and Texas A&M's Dominique Kirk (3.67).

"I've just been trying to take care of the ball," Young said after practice on Monday. "Can't turn it over. Wish I didn't have those three (turnovers)."

Young's assists and lack of turnovers have been nice, but they're just one of the many reasons why the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Young enters each game, including the Wildcats' meeting with Nebraska at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum, bursting with confidence.

"That's Blake playing like a senior," Beasley said. "You're supposed to do that. He plays hard. He's relentless no matter who's guarding him."

Young, who joins Beasley as the only two players to start in all 20 games this season and who has played in a team-high 55 consecutive contests, came through despite a disappointing 77-74 loss at Missouri on Saturday. He scored 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting (3-for-3 on 3-pointers) and added four rebounds, one assist (one turnover) and one steal in 32 minutes.

Before that, he had a team-high five assists and didn't commit a turnover in 27 minutes in a 84-75 win against No. 2 Kansas.

"Blake has been playing with tremendous energy," K-State coach Frank Martin said. "He's a guy who understands and has that sense of urgency that all seniors have when their season is starting to wind down. He's continuing to compete and offensively he's been good. He doesn't turn it over and against Missouri he was able to make some open shots for us and against Kansas he did a pretty good job of making the extra pass."

Young's take: "You can't turn the ball over because (Kansas) feeds off of any turnover, so I was just trying to take care of the ball. Whoever I passed the ball to, they made their shot. That's what it comes down to."

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