Jan. 19, 2010
MEMPHIS, Tenn.¯On Saturday, January 16, 2010, former Pitt teammates DeJuan Blair and Sam Young found themselves in a familiar place with a slightly different twist. For the first time since being drafted, Blair and Young met on an NBA court as opponents as the San Antonio Spurs traveled to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies.
Only a year ago, Young and Blair sported the same blue and gold at Pitt. Now, the two NBA rookies find themselves in two completely different environments from their playing days playing under Pitt coach Jamie Dixon.
Young's Grizzlies were able to hold off a late comeback attempt from the Spurs, registering a 92-86 and setting a franchise record with their eighth consecutive home victory. Blair totaled eight points and eight rebounds in the game and Young finished with four points, two rebounds and a block.
It was a familiar sight seeing the two Panthers exchange jokes and comments during pregame warmups. Both players entered the NBA after a historic 2008-09 season at Pitt which saw the duo lead the Panthers to their first NCAA Elite Eight appearance since 1974, a school record 31-5 overall record and the school's first-ever No. 1 national ranking.
Both players have found themselves with new and expanding roles in their rookie season. A consensus First Team All-America player and co-Big East Most Valuable Player in 2008-09, Blair has quickly earned the respect of the Spurs coaching staff and his teammates. He has started 17 of 40 games and is averaging 7.2 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game.
On January 12 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Blair tallied career-highs of 28 points and 21 rebounds. Blair has logged over 30 minutes of playing time in three of the last four games and is averaging 13.8 points and 14.5 boards over that span.
"He's an amazing man," said Spurs veteran Antonio McDyess. "He's a rare rookie, I would say. It seems like he has the experience already, has been a rookie. He has come in very humble, willing to learn. He's been great. When you're a rookie in the NBA and you want to learn, you're only going to get better."
Meanwhile, Sam Young is averaging 8.0 points and 2.4 rebounds per game this year for the surprise Grizzlies. A 24-year-old forward, Young was the Grizzlies' third and final pick in the NBA draft. A third team All-American at Pitt, where he ranks fourth on the all-time scoring list, Young has been known for his work ethic and determination.
On January 3rd, Young scored a career-high 22 points in 20 minutes off the bench for Memphis. He hit 6-11 shots from the floor, converted all nine free throw attempts and added four rebounds and two assists.
"Sam Young did a great job of getting us back in the game," said Memphis Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins after Young led the Grizzlies to a 99-91 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. "We put him in a lot of isolations and they couldn't guard him. He's a good one-on-one player. He's strong, fast and quick. ... He got to the basket at will."
Blair and Young were selected on consecutive picks in last June's NBA Draft - Young at No. 36 and Blair at No. 37. The Spurs and Grizzlies are set to meet again on the 29th of January. The two will meet several more times during the 2009-10 season: January 29 at San Antonio, March 6 at Memphis and April 9 at San Antonio.