BYU forward Keena Young epitomizes the adage that says it's not where you start that counts, but where you finish.
Young took a circuitous route to Provo, ending up in a place even he never expected. As a senior, he certainly exceeded expectations.
Not only was Young voted the 2006-07 Mountain West Conference player of the year, but he also led BYU to a 25-9 record and an outright MWC championship. The Beaumont, Texas, native averaged a team-high 17.1 points per game and became the first Cougar since 2004 to be named an AP All-America honorable mention.
"Keena had a great season," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "He was really consistent, game-in, game-out. He was a great teammate. I think how he's progressed as a player in the three years since he's been here is a real tribute to his work ethic, dedication and character."
For his efforts, Young is the Deseret Morning News' choice as the all-state college basketball player of the year, as voted upon by DMN sportswriters and editors. Joining Young on the five-man Utah college all-star team are Utah State's Jaycee Carroll, Weber State's David Patten, Utah's Luke Nevill and Utah Valley State College's Ryan Toolson.
Young finished with 590 points last season and became one of just 36 BYU players to eclipse the 1,000-point plateau for a career. He tallied 1,068 career points, which is good for No. 33 on the school's all-time scoring list.
Still, it's a wonder he wound up at BYU at all.
Young and high school teammate Kendrick Perkins signed to play for coach John Calipari at Memphis in the fall of 2002. But the following spring, Perkins declared for the NBA Draft. After learning of Perkins' decision, Memphis coaches met with Young and told him he was still welcome but that he didn't figure into their plans.
Caught late in the recruiting process without a team, Young enrolled at South Plains College, near Lubbock, Texas. One Division I coach that took notice of Young was located in Lubbock Texas Tech's Bob Knight. In the spring of 2004, Young verbally committed to Knight and the Red Raiders.
Not long after that, Knight informed Young that he could join the Texas Tech program but that he wouldn't be on scholarship. South Plains coach Steve Green knew then-BYU coach Steve Cleveland and put him on to Young. Young signed with the Cougars despite knowing very little about the LDS Church, which owns and operates BYU.
As a sophomore, Young eventually broke into BYU's starting lineup. He led the team in rebounding and averaged a modest 7.2 points per game before breaking his hand and missing the final five games of the season. The Cougars finished with a dismal 9-21 record.
During the offseason, Cleveland took the Fresno State job and BYU promoted Rose, then an assistant coach, to the helm. As a junior, Young blossomed under Rose, averaging 10.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He was a third-team all-MWC selection.
Going into the 2006-07 season, Cougar center Trent Plaisted garnered most of the attention on and off the court, and that proved to be a boon for Young. While he was a beneficiary of opposing teams doubling down on Plaisted, Young had also worked hard to improve his midrange jumper. For the year, he shot 55 percent from the field.
Perhaps his best individual performance came in the MWC tournament championship game against UNLV. Young recorded a career-high with 34 points on 13-of-18 shooting, scoring the Cougars' final 16 points in a loss to the Runnin' Rebels.
Young credited his teammates for his stellar season.
"They put me in the position where I could score and make plays," he said.
Utah's Johnnie Bryant and Shaun Green made the all-state college second team, as did BYU's Plaisted and Lee Cummard and Southern Utah's Steve Barnes. Utah State's Chaz Spicer, BYU's Austin Ainge and Jonathan Tavernari, Weber State's Juan Pablo Silveira and Dezmon Harris, SUU's Justin Allen and UVSC's David Heck were honorable-mention selections.
Carroll guided the Aggies to a 23-12 mark and led the WAC in scoring with a 21.6 average. He was all-WAC first-team and honorable mention All-American.
Patten was the leader of the Wildcats' unexpected Big Sky Conference championship in coach Randy Rahe's first season at the helm. He earned Big Sky MVP honors, leading the team in scoring (14.2) and setting a school record with 54 dunks while also earning honorable mention All-American honors.
Nevill was the Utes' leading scorer (16.5) and rebounder (7.6) and was one of their few bright spots amid a rough 11-19 campaign. He was named to the all-MWC second team.
Chaz Spicer, USU, Sr., F
Austin Ainge, BYU, Sr., G
Juan Pablo Silveira, Weber State, So., G
Dezmon Harris, Weber State, Jr., G
Jonathan Tavernari, BYU, Fr., G/F
David Heck, UVSC, Sr., F
Justin Allen, SUU, Sr., G