The former SLAM High School Diarist talked to us about giving up football for basketball, his memories of keeping a diary for us and much more. Peep the interview below and pick up #SLAM200 if you haven’t done so already!–Ed.
SLAM: Is it true you fell in love with football first?
Thaddeus Young: I always had a basketball, but I was a two-sport guy back then and I was actually better in football. I didn’t play organized basketball until I was 12 years old.
SLAM: What made you switch?
TY: I broke my collarbone playing football.
SLAM: Talk about your early basketball journey.
TY: My first AAU team was called the Memphis Golden Eagles, and I didn’t play that much because I wasn’t very good. I wasn’t always the guy that was picked first. As time went on, I worked on my game, and I got better. I would go out and play against my dad, and he wouldn’t let me beat him. I kept working, until one day it eventually happened later on when I was 14—and I dunked on him. That was one of my first dunks. I ran in the house and told my mom. He stopped playing against me after that.
SLAM: How’d you keep your focus in Memphis?
TY: It definitely was a sacrifice, especially when I figured out that I could have a chance to become an NBA player. My dream basically was to get into college, get my degree, and get a job. But I started figuring things out and things started to click. The biggest benefit for me was that I had people around me to push me and I got better everyday.
SLAM: You kept the SLAM high school diary for us. What does the mag mean to you?
TY: I was playing well in AAU and SLAM was really big in grassroots basketball. I was a potential All-American and growing up I would always go and buy SLAM. Before we had all these apps, and before you could download the magazine—which I still do—I would always tell my mom that we had to go to the store and buy SLAM. I always wanted to see who they were talking about and who was next. I also loved SLAM because of the sneakers. When they asked me to be the Diarist, that was a huge honor for me going into my senior year. I still have the first issue I appeared in [SLAM 91]. It’s at my house in Memphis.
SLAM: Why did you choose Georgia Tech?
TY: I had a crazy senior year. We lost in the state championship, but I had already committed to Georgia Tech in November. I knew things were going to be crazy because I committed to a school that wasn’t Memphis. I would play at Memphis, go to their practices, I knew all the players, and some of my AAU teammates were going there. They had a good group of guys. I just felt that I needed to get away from the city. I explored my options because I wanted to be able to grow as a player. If I stayed home, I don’t think I would have been able to focus like I needed to. My lifelong dream was to get to the NBA, so I felt it was time for me to go. No love lost, I still workout at the University of Memphis.
SLAM: You’re not only a successful player, but you’re branching into investments now, right?
TY: Yes. I have done a lot in real estate, and now I’m working with the Claim It! app, which is free app where you can receive a text message, watch a short ad and then go get free stuff. It’s the time in my career when I need to think about this sort of stuff.
Anthony Gilbert is a contributor to SLAM. Follow him @axgilbert.
Photo courtesy of Thaddeus Young.