With his team visiting the historic Allen Fieldhouse, home of college basketball powerhouse Kansas University, senior point guard Alex Young was two assists shy of the all-time assists record at UCI. Hurling a pass to a cutting freshman forward Jonathan Galloway, Young made history by notching the all-time assist record in UCI men’s basketball history, surpassing Raymond Miglinieks’ (who played for the Anteaters from 1994-1996) record of 475. Today, Young is up to 500 and counting, with his sights set on leaving his mark on the basketball program.
Young is no stranger to making history, as he helped lead the team to its first NCAA appearance last year. And now, with at least 11 games left on the season this year, Young hopes to reach new heights again by leading the ‘Eaters to a second consecutive NCAA appearance.
“I was looking forward to that all year,” said Young about breaking the record, “I have to give a lot of the credit to the teammates I’ve had over four years, guys who were able to put the ball in the bucket for me [and] I’m looking forward to adding on to that number.”
The 6’2 Young, a three-year captain for the UC Irvine men’s basketball team, runs the ‘Eater offense as the point guard, an on court-coach who possesses the ball at the start of every offensive possession. A role that he embraces and has developed his game to be at where it is today.
Out of Phoenix High School, in Oregon, many doubted Young’s ability to succeed at the Division I level of college basketball. A four-time member of the All-Skyline Conference first team and a conference player of the year in his junior and senior year of high school, Young looked to test his skills and play basketball at UC Irvine in 2012. But many questioned the kid from the small town in Oregon and his ability to succeed in the highest level of collegiate athletics.
“I really had one of the biggest chips on my shoulder in my entire life,” said Young, “Trying to come [to UCI] and prove to a lot of people back home, that seemed as supporters. But then once it was time for me to come to school and play college ball, they turned into doubters.”
When it was time for Young to play in UCI as a freshman, he proved a lot of doubters wrong with his stellar play and provided a role in helping UCI reach the Big West conference tournament final that season. Young ended his first year as the conference co-freshman of the year and set the school record with most assists as a freshman with 144.
“I knew I was capable of playing Division I basketball”, said Young, “The coaches and teammates here had a lot of trust in me so I knew, once I got here, all I had to do was put in the work to be able to go out there and prove it each night on the court.”
His freshman breakout of a season turned into Young being named a team captain in just his sophomore year of playing for UCI. It was evident that coaches and teammates knew that Young was going to be the point guard that would lead the ‘Eaters to new heights and newfound success.
“We committed to him [Young] early in his career and then he committed to us and his improvement is a measure of what we saw from him coming out of high school,” said UCI sixth year head coach Russell Turner.
Once Young found his role on the team, it was about how to improve as a collective unit and get UC Irvine on the map. The team had its fair share of disappointments during Young’s career, including a finals loss his freshman year to Pacific, an upset defeat his sophomore year against Cal Poly in the conference tournament, and not being to pull away in close games against some of the nation’s top talent in his junior year.
Most disappointingly however, was the time Young had the ball in his hands in the last possession of the game against the fourth seeded Louisville in UCI’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament, where the ‘Eaters lost 57-55. That game saw the underdog ‘Eaters go toe to toe against the Cardinals concluded in a controversial no call in which Young turned the ball over in the closing seconds of the game, a no call that haunts him to this day. But Young knew that out of every heart break, there was a lesson to be learned.
“I think those experiences are the best thing for a team,” said Young, “Sometimes you’ve got to face adversity and losses in order to get better.”
One of those personal experiences for Young came from being a member of the U20 squad for Great Britain in the summer of 2014. Young competed in the European U20 Championships, alongside his UCI teammate Luke Nelson, in Greece. Before his senior season, Young made the final cut in Great Britain’s senior team.
“I really didn’t know what to expect [in 2014] because it was my first time playing basketball in Europe, but I really had Luke to tell me what I was going to go through,” said Young, “I think that was a good stepping stone but then (…) trying out for the senior national team was an even bigger help because I went from being one of the older guys to the youngest guy on the team and playing with guys that are already professionals overseas has been a huge help.”
Young, a sociology major, plans to let basketball take him as far as it can in his future. Coaching, an endeavor he is interested in, is on his radar as his experience as a point guard has taught him how to lead a collective group of teammates throughout his career at UCI.
“You have to be a leader as a point guard because you’re the one who is running the show,” said Young, “I think that ties in with me being a captain (…) sort of an extension of a coach.”
Counting down the amount of home games he has left this season on his fingers, Young will embrace each matchup as they come. Each will be an opportunity to lace his Adidas sneakers to represent UC Irvine and his home town of Phoenix, Oregon. But for now, he will always remember cementing his legacy in program history in a hostile environment with only his teammates to celebrate his new feat, of being number one in the record books in assists, with after the game in the locker room.
“You can’t go wrong breaking it in one of the most historical places of college basketball,” said Young, “That’s really what I’m always going to remember.”