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Faulkner, Young lead Titans into new season

Most new coaches take over programs on the downside or at least step into situations without high expectations.

Not so much for Kurt Young.

The new Mercer County boys basketball coach steps into a situation with one of the top teams in the state and one of the best junior players in Kentucky as well. But for Young, none of that is a bad thing.

“I think that if you are a competitor you want expectations,” Young said. “It is great going into a program where you know they have had success so you know it can be done. We have told our guys what you or I did last season does not matter, it is what we do now. I think that any successful program has to take that approach otherwise you become complacent.

“As far as public expectations, we don’t worry about them. We will set a high standard for our players every year and as long as we can get them to live up to their potential on and off the court we have done our job.”

Young took over for Josh Cook, who left for George Rogers Clark after guiding the TItans to a 33-2 record and a berth in the KHSAA Sweet 16 tournament. Young arrived full time at school in October and “jumped right into it.”

“It has been a whirlwind,” he said. “Our players have been great. It has been adjustment for them but they have done a great job responding. I am lucky because coach Cook did a great job with them and they are some of the best young men that I have coached. I think that as they have started to get a better understanding of our system that they are getting more excited.”

While the expectations are there for Mercer, many of last year’s players aren’t; only Trevon Faulkner returns with much experience from last year. So far in two games, the Titans are 1-1 with a 19-point win over Shelby County and a 20-point loss to Corbin.

“Everyone here understands that we lost a lot,” Young said. “With the return of Trevon, we have someone who can be the top player in the state this season, and everyone is excited about it. With that said, we are not worried about other expectations. Our job is to live up to our own expectations which is to be relentless, mentally tough, unselfish and be the best person or player we can be. If we can live up to our own than we will have a successful season.”

Stepping into new roles this year will be Gunnar Gillis, Rhyan Lanham, Jon Dunning, Andrew Gray, Seth Tatum, Grayson Blevins, Garrett Dean and Tanner Robbins. The point guard position, held last year by The Advocate-Messenger All-Area Player of the Year Will Hager, will turn over to sophomore Carter Baughman and junior Jackson Lewis.

No matter the list, Faulkner is ranked as one of the best players in the state regardless of class, and when whittling it down to the Class of 2018, he’s rated as the best. Last year, he averaged 18.6 points and 5.9 rebounds, shooting 52.6 percent from the floor, 39.4 percent from 3-point range and 80.7 percent from the free throw line.

Faulkner’s offseason on the court was cut short by his time playing for the Mercer football team, where he came up with seven interceptions at free safety and five receiving touchdowns.

Even with all of those accomplishments, Young is excited for what’s to come for Faulkner.

“As good as Trevon is, he still has a tremendous upside,” Young said. “The main things that we are focusing on is he stepping up and being a leader, getting more vocal and setting the bar for our players. He has all the makings of a great leader but it is a new role for him.

“The other thing that we are stressing to him is to be relentless every night. He has the talent and ability to be one of the best players not only in the state but the country. What will allow him to separate himself from others is that effort on every possession.”

Young has coached at various high schools and college programs, and to him, Trevon ranks with the best he’s been with.

“I have been fortunate to coach over 50 professional players and Trevon is right up there,” Young said. “He has the ability to be a high major player in college if he continues to work and develop. He has all the tools. If he dedicates himself to continuing to develop the little things and gets that relentless attitude, he can make a very nice living basketball whether in the States or overseas.”

New coach, new players, same expectations. With those types of standards for Faulkner and the rest of the Titans, it’ll be another entertaining season in Mercer County.

Follow Jeremy Schneider on Twitter @jschneideramn