The opening night of the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am has developed into a tradition of welcoming the next big thing for Pitt basketball. The fans who showed up Monday night at the Greentree Sportsplex to watch Pitt's newest big man are hoping he sticks around longer than the two prospects who commanded all the attention the past two years.
All eyes were on 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward Mike Young, a Duquesne native who follows Khem Birch and Steven Adams, a couple of elite high school players who never panned out for the Panthers.
Birch left midway through his freshman season and transferred to UNLV, and Adams left after one season to pursue a career in the NBA.
Young, the centerpiece to Jamie Dixon's 2013 recruiting class, is the presumed starter at power forward after the departures of Adams and J.J. Moore, who transferred to Rutgers.
Young is not quite as highly touted as Adams or Birch, two prospects that were considered to be among the top 25 players in their classes, but he's not lacking in confidence.
When asked if he was ready to start as a freshman in the ACC, Young was quick with his response.
"I'm ready for that," said Young, who played his freshman season at Shady Side Academy and then finished his high school career at Hudson Catholic and St. Benedict's in New Jersey. "That's something I wanted when I made my decision to come to Pitt. The starting position opened up with some transfers, but I felt like even if everyone stayed, I still would have had a chance to come in and play."
Young was a consensus top 100 player at St. Benedict's as a senior and ESPN ranked him among the top 60 high school seniors. He was not a well-known prospect as a ninth-grader at Shady Side Academy, but he was a fixture around the Petersen Events Center, where he often showed up to play in pickup games with Pitt's players.
He was an impressionable middle school student when he watched his boyhood heroes -- DeJuan Blair and Sam Young -- lead Pitt to the Elite Eight in 2009.
"I liked DeJuan because he was from Pittsburgh and Sam because we play similar," Young said.
The turnover of the roster over the offseason almost assures Young will have an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Blair and earn a starting job as a freshman.
Senior Talib Zanna, who started at power forward as a junior and averaged 9.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, said Monday night the plan is for him to move to center and for Young to step in at power forward.
"I want to do this for the team," Zanna said. "We want to win. It's coach Dixon's decision. I don't mind playing the five. Mike's size and length will help us. He's in good shape. He's going to be a perfect fit for the four-man."
Young's debut in the Pro-Am was a success. He scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his team's 84-78 victory.
Senior small forward Lamar Patterson, who is playing on the same summer league team as Young, sees a lot of potential in the young power forward.
"I'm expecting big things from him," Patterson said. "Playing with him, we all know what he's capable of. He's going to bring his size. He's got a big body. He works hard. He's real skilled, can shoot, rebound well, play defense, and he's physical.
"He's going to bring a lot to the table. If he's not ready now, he'll be ready. He definitely has the potential to be on the court a lot. Whether he's a starter or not, I feel like he'll be on the court a significant amount of time."
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1.