This is the third in a series of feature stories on the 2015 inductees into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame.
Hakeem Olajuwon. Dikembe Mutumbo. Serge Ibaka.
Those are just a handful of former and current NBA stars that have traveled from Africa to the United States to pursue a dream once thought impossible.
If it hadn’t been for Danny Young and the Central State (Ohio) University men’s basketball team, that dream may have still been unattainable to this day.
Young, a 1968 New Castle High graduate, was a member of the Marauders team that was the first to travel to Africa to bring the sport of basketball to the African natives.
“The first thing they did with (the ball) was kick it,” Young said of his trip to Africa. “Now, I look back on some of the ball players, like Olajuwon and Mutumbo, I feel like I had something to do with that. We were the first college in the U.S. to go to Africa. I got the chance to teach Africans the fundamentals of basketball. That was a fantastic opportunity. We went to the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, just had a fantastic time.”
The former New Castle star and current University Park, Ill. resident averaged 18.5 points per game his junior year and 21.7 during his senior campaign with the ’Canes and will be inducted into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame.
“Those years of playing in high school were memorable years,” Young said. “Fortunately, (New Castle coach Connie) Palumbo and (assistant coach Don) Ross saw that I had a sort of shot. I was a good shooter and they had a lot to do with developing my shot.”
The banquet will be held April 26 at the New Englander banquet facility. The social hour starts at 1:30 p.m., with dinner at 3. Tickets are available at the historical society annex from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays or online at www.lawrencehs.com.
Young also was a First Team All-Section 3 selection those two years with the ’Canes before moving forward to the Wilberforce, Ohio campus.
Young helped the Marauders to two NAIA National Championship Tournament appearances in his freshman and sophomore years and had the chance to go toe-to-toe with one of the all-time greats in George “Iceman” Gervin when Central State met Eastern Michigan.
“That was great, being able to play against him,” Young said. “We had two or three people that were from Detroit on the team. That’s all they talked about was George Gervin, George Gervin, George Gervin. When we played them, I didn’t think too much. He weighed about 160 pounds but when he stepped on that court, it was a whole different ballgame.
“He carried those moves right through the ABA and NBA. He was doing all of that in college.”
Young, who finished with a career 889 points in high school, second-best when he graduated behind Joe Hartman, also was a member of New Castle’s track and field team as a 10th grader. The 64 year-old attributes running for putting him in shape during both his high school days and beyond.
“My brother, Terry, ran cross country,” Young said. “He motivated me to get out and run. I loved to run, it was always a part of my life, I still run 12 miles a week. I’ve always loved to run. It did keep me in great shape, I remember running and then going to basketball practice right after.”
Added Palumbo, “He was one of the original gym rats. He’d be the first one in, last one out. You couldn’t kick him out of the gym.”
Young worked with the now-defunct Browning-Ferris Industries for 16 years as a regional communities affairs manager in the Atlanta area. He played a vital role in getting the company to donate 400 acres to 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Inc., an organization that aims to improve the quality of life for youths in Atlanta.
He was the one to make the announcement at a black-tie affair in the Georgia Dome.
“When (the announcement) was made, you couldn’t hear a pin drop,” Young said. “They couldn’t believe it. It took me a year to convince them and we needed to enhance our image in that area. That really helped us out. That’s one of the highlights of my working career.”
Young could usually be found with 1999 Lawrence County Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy Payne playing games at a summer league held at the Shenango Y playground.
Those two, along with Young’s New Castle teammate in George Eggleston, spent most of their nights on the court.
“The biggest part of our day was playing basketball,” Eggleston said. “After school or during the summer vacation, we were on the courts. We did a lot of playing together growing up. Danny was a very happy-go-lucky young man. He enjoyed life, he was liked by everybody. He loved playing basketball and we did that a lot.”
Despite the endless nights of basketball, Young credits Payne for fine-tuning his jump shot and, when given the opportunity, making sure Young knew who helped.
“Jimmy Payne, he taught me how to shoot a jump shot in the 7th grade,” Young said. “It’s something that he would always remind me of.”
Young, 64, currently works for Northern Plant Services as a manager in the chemical pipe-cleaning division. He has a 27 year-old son, Wesley.
TOMORROW: Nicole Pauline Downing