Trace Young sat patiently, knowing all too well he’d carve the same indentation into the same chair located at the end of the bench inside in the Arena-Auditorium. For all intents and purposes, Young knew he’d wear the same gold warm-up to every game and watch as the University of Wyoming struggled. He wouldn’t be able to provide any reprieve or helping hand.

That’s simply the life of a redshirt. Young — a 6-foot-9 stretch forward from Owensboro, Kentucky — was pegged before the season began as one of two players who would save a year of eligibility and not compete in a single game all season.

Well, that was until this past Saturday. Because of a slew of injuries and defections that read longer that Santa Claus’ shopping list in early December, Young traded in his warm-up for a game uniform.

Young started, scored and won the first collegiate basketball game he’s ever played. To put it into proper context, Young’s first game occurred against a 4-5 Division II team and his game-winning 3-pointer from the right wing with under a second to play — which gave the Pokes a 65-63 victory — prevented Wyoming from losing what would have been an unforgivable game.

That being said, Young showcased everything one could have hoped for in his debut. In 31 minutes of floor time, the true freshman tallied 16 points, connecting on 6 of 10 shots — hitting four from behind the 3-point line — while corralling six rebounds. He showed his athleticism with an impressive put-back in traffic and anticipation with a steal and dunk in the second half.

Young didn’t appear lost or out of place. He looked like a collegiate basketball player that can compete and contribute in the Mountain West Conference.

The play of Young also begs the question, why wasn’t he playing sooner? Why did it take three injuries, a suspension and a defection to get Young into game action?

I understand that his game and build resembles that of Justin James, and with James rarely ever exiting the floor, where does Young fit? Even with all that remaining true, there has to be room on the floor for a 6-9 player that showed tremendous range, quickness and anticipation.

Also, let’s commend Young for his unselfishness. Young, while I’m sure he wanted to play, had already sat out half the season, games he’ll ever get back. His willingness to throw away a significant portion of his freshman campaign is commendable.

Young followed up his performance against the Trailblazers with another 16-point effort against Boise State in the Pokes’ MWC opener. Once again, Young looked the part. He shot it well from the outside and appeared to have good feel of the game.

Young appears ready for college basketball at MWC level. Does that mean he’ll transform Wyoming from a conference bottom-dweller into a contender? Probably not.

In any event, Young’s debut was quite the memorable one. He started, led the team in scoring, hit the game-winning shot and later blew out some candles as he celebrated a birthday. And what a birthday it was.

 

Pokes Notes

The University of Wyoming wrestling team ascended to No. 13 in the country after topping No. 4 NC State, Michigan State and SIU Edwardsville at the South Beach Duals.

UW’s women’s basketball team fell to Boise State 72-64 in its Mountain West Conference opener.

Former UW quarterback Josh Allen was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after his five-touchdown effort against Miami in Buffalo’s regular-season finale.