Welcome back to the Maryland men’s basketball film room. It’s almost impossible to predict how mid-major guards will transition to the physicality of high-major play, but for Jahmir Young, the adjustment has been seamless.
Young — who transferred from Charlotte to Maryland last offseason — has bursted onto the Big Ten scene. Fans, and even head coach Kevin Willard, didn’t expect Young’s presence to lead to a probable NCAA Tournament appearance and a likely 20-win season.
“Honestly, no,” Willard said when I asked him if he thought Young’s play would translate as well as it has to the Big Ten. “I thought he would be a really good player. And again, I’m being biased, I think he’s as good a guard as there is in the country right now.”
Young’s brought a colorful, explosive brand of basketball to College Park, featuring transition offense and a dynamo approach that perfectly blends with Willard’s style.
Willard’s primary objective entering year one was to revive a historically great basketball program that had fallen from its perch near the top of the sport. There’s no individual player who could have helped Willard achieve that goal more than Young, who represents his hometown every time he dons a Maryland uniform. With the return of packed student sections and electric atmospheres at the XFINITY Center, it’s safe to say mission accomplished.
But there’s a reason Young’s had immediate success in his first year playing high-major basketball. His explosive first step, ambidextrous finishing ability and lethal propensity to operate in space have made him a candidate for the All-Big Ten first team.
Young is averaging 16.2 points per game, the ninth-most in the conference.
Let’s dive into some film to explore how Young gets those points, why he’s been so effective and what makes him as dynamic as he is.
Young has mastered the pick-and-roll
Maryland’s best offensive play is the pick-and-roll. Young is the primarily ball handler and sophomore forward Julian Reese is usually the screener. It’s Maryland’s bread and butter.
Young is used as the ball handler in the pick-and-roll on 37.3% of his possessions, the play type he uses by far the most. He scores 0.855 points per possession when he’s the ball handler in the pick-and-roll, which ranks in the 69th percentile in the country, according to Synergy.
Part of what makes Young so dynamic in the pick-and-roll is his ability to go both ways and use both hands. Young drives right on 51.9% of his drives and left on 44.2%. But there’s virtually no difference in his efficiency scoring driving one way or the other.
Reese’s screen does just enough to create separation between Young and his defender. Young has the Badgers guard on his hip and uses a hesitation dribble to read the second layer of defense. Once he sees Reese’s defender slide over to cover Reese on the roll, Young takes off and banks it in for a contested lefty finish.
Patrick Emilien is waiting to set a screen for Young the second the ball is reversed to him. Young takes the perfect angle and exposes Nebraska’s suspect pick-and-roll coverage. He splits the defense with a clean crossover and attacks the help defender with an up-and-under that results in two free throws.
This is a perfect encapsulation of Young’s explosiveness and uncanny capacity to change speeds in an instance — the way a prime Russell Westbrook or Ja Morant can do at the next level.
Young keeps a steady dribble as Donta Scott sets a screen near the top of the key. Young patiently waits and when he sees the coverage is jumbled, he takes off like an airplane on a tarmac, soaring for a tough and-one finish.
After Maryland’s win over Wisconsin on Jan. 25, Willard admitted Maryland is a pick-and-roll heavy team. But the play’s effectiveness has increased in recent weeks. Willard attributes that to the roll man: Reese.
“Julian’s getting so much more comfortable rolling and he’s understanding where to roll, what to do when he rolls,” Willard said. “We see a lot of drop coverage. I think he’s done such a better job of reading the open space in drop coverage.”
Take a look at this play below.
Michigan’s defender goes under the screen and recovers quickly. It’s another example of Young using his athleticism to get downhill. Young may get the two points, but Reese makes this play. He doesn't touch the ball and he doesn't do anything that will show up on the box score. What he does do is roll to the rim and immediately begins to post up Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson. As Young starts driving to the left, Reese seals Dickinson, taking away any help and giving Young a clear lane to the rim.
Young utilizes the pick-and-roll in a variety of ways. Although he’s at his best when he has a head of steam going toward the basket, Young has a smooth jumper and is a creative scorer.
Purdue big man Zach Edey is playing drop coverage — which Maryland sees often. Young snake-dribbles past the screen and picks up his dribble at the left elbow. He waits for Caelum Swanton-Rodger to complete his roll, which forces Edey — who has now picked up Young — to turn his attention to Swanton-Rodger for a split-second. Young uses a simple shot fake to create some space and nails a jumper over the 7-foot Edey.
Maryland likes to run action where Young starts off the ball and receives a dribble handoff on the wing. That triggers Reese to come up and set a screen for Young, as shown above. Except Young’s defender is anticipating the screen, so Young simply rejects it and uses a right-to-left crossover to skate to the rim. Young often rejects screens, which is sometimes as effective as using it.
The pick-and-roll is helping Young as a shooter
Young isn't a huge threat from three, but he’s shown an aptness to make defenders pay who go under screens. Young is shooting 28% from three this season, which isn't great. But the numbers say he’s a better shooter off the dribble than as a spot-up threat. He's shooting 23.5% from three on no-dribble spot up threes, but 39.3% on his threes as a pick-and-roll ball handler, per Synergy.
Young gets a screen at the top of the key and looks like he’s ready to takeoff to the rim. Iowa’s defender goes under the screen, Young comes to an abrupt stop and launches it.
This is another example of Young’s defender going under a transition screen from Reese. Young makes Minnesota pay (it was a Saturday night game, so yes, the bank was open).
Defenses gameplanning for Young have a dilemma when deciding their pick-and-roll coverages given the multitude of ways he can hurt a defense.
If teams switch on-ball screens, Young will drive past a bigger defender. If teams play in drop coverage and lag off Young, he’ll make them pay with a pull-up jumper. Blitzing screens or hard-hedging is likely the best way to get the ball out of Young’s hands, but he is a solid passer, too.
This is a well-designed and well-executed baseline out-of-bounds play by Maryland. Young inbounds the ball and gets a dribble handoff on the right wing from Noah Batchelor. Scott then flashes to the top of the key, where Young delivers him a pass before getting it right back on another handoff. Young uses a double screen from Scott and Reese for another pull-up three.
Young is unstoppable in transition
Maryland is at its best when it turns teams over at a high rate, which allows the Terps to get out in transition. 13.6% of Maryland’s possessions are in transition, where Maryland scores 1.151 points per possession. That ranks in the 88th percentile and grades as excellent, according to Synergy.
The reason Maryland has been dangerous in transition is because of Young, who is like a Mercedes on an open freeway in space.
These are a few instances of Maryland’s suffocating defense forcing turnovers and Young doing his thing in transition.
Young does a tremendous job coming over to double Nebraska’s big on the left block. He gets his hand on the ball and takes it 94 feet for a hesitation into a floater.
The majority of Young’s points come in transition or from pick-and-roll action. Maryland’s staff understands that, which is why they run pick-and-roll as frequently as they do, and why they emphasize getting out in transition.
This Maryland group will go as far as Young takes them. Whether that’s a run in the Big Ten or NCAA Tournament remains to be seen. But if that does happen, it’ll surely be on the heels of the Terps’ prolific point guard.
“Where the program was last year and where it is now, I think a ton of that has to do with how good Jahmir Young has been,” Willard said.