By Abbey Way

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) – Pitt sophomore Mike Young averaged 22.5 points per game in the exhibitions against IUP and Philadelphia and he is confident that he can continue to put up 20 points per game during the season.

In 2013-14, he averaged 6.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per game but this season Pitt will be without Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna due to graduation. Young said he is up for the challenge of picking up where the Panthers’ top contributors left off.

“Does my team need me to score 20 points a game?” Young said. “Yes, but my team also needs me to be more of a leader with Cam [Wright] being out, Durand [Johnson] coming off an injury and the lack of scoring we have after losing Lamar and Talib.”

In the 2013-14 Patterson and Zanna averaged 30.1 points of the team’s total of 71.8 points per game average. Although 20 points per game from Young wouldn’t completely fill that void, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

“To lose them guys I feel like I can put up 20 and I think the team needs me to go out and put up 20-plus points per game,” Young said. “My confidence is really high right now. So, I feel like I can just go out and put up 20 against whoever.”

Not only did Young score more than 20 points in each of the exhibition games but he was efficient as well. He shot 8 for 10 from the free throw line and 64 percent from the field (18-28).

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon acknowledged that Young will face tougher competition during the regular season. However, he still expects him to be one of the leading scorers on the team and to make more of an impact as a sophomore.

“We are really looking to get the ball inside to him and it is something he has gotten better at,” Dixon said. “He has improved even from the summer to the fall.”

Young said that he was terrible at finishing around the rim last season. So, he put in a lot of work during the summer to improve his game all around and his confidence.

“I just wanted to become more athletic and become more conditioned and be explosive all the time,” Young said. “In the summer league, I went in and put up some big numbers and that really helped my confidence as far as going against other people and displaying what I’ve been working on.”

His first chance to display his improved talents in a real game will be on Friday as Pitt opens up the season against Niagara at the Peterson Events Center. Young said he is excited to play in a game that counts towards the team’s record.

Like Dixon, Young’s improvement over the summer hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates.

“We have been impressed with him,” point guard James Robinson said. “He can step out, he can play in the post, he can handle the ball a little bit. He is really versatile for us so he will have a big year for us.”

Listen to the entire interview with Young here: 

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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