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Oklahoma State's Toni Young is Still Developing Her Dunk

Toni Young's one-handed jam this fall at Homecoming and Hoops
Toni Young's one-handed jam this fall at Homecoming and Hoops

This fall, Toni Young dunked her way into the Oklahoma State Homecoming and Hoops celebration with a right-handed slam in a showcase with players from the OSU men's team.

This winter, Toni Young attempted to become the eighth woman in NCAA history to throw down an above the rim play in competition against Oral Roberts. It failed, but that doesn't deter her drive.

This spring, Toni Young has been seen in layup lines working on her slamming skills, throwing down two-handed jams at the Big 12 Championship Tournament.

The 6-foot-something sophomore's dreams of adding her name to the list that boasts Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles and Brittney Griner to name a few, is strong. Her 6-2 stature in the media guide is actually an embellishment according to Young.

"I'm actually 6-1, with shoes on I'm probably 6-2," Young says of the media guide discrepancy. "I don't think I'm that tall, I'm done growing.

"I think that it would be a big thing because I'm only 6-1 and everybody else is like - Brittany Griner she's 6-8 so you expect them to be able to get above the rim. But when you see me, you're like, ‘oh, she's short, she can't jump that high'. But when they see me jump it's like ‘oh, ok maybe she can'."

 

She has jumping ability that earned her a share of the national high school girls record in the high jump of 6-4, three inches taller than she stands. Her height would rank her as seventh out of the eight women. But her ups even the playing field. She is ready to translate those high flying steps into a show-stopping play for the Cowgirls.

"I really don't know how I can do it," Young said. "I don't even realize how high I am until somebody tells me like, ‘oh my God, your wrist was over the rim' or something."

The forward is confident that she's going to get that wrist above the rim and hit that in-game dunk before her time at Oklahoma State concludes. One of nine children, Young is relatively ‘young' in her sporting life, not becoming an active participant until junior high. The three-time state champion in the high jump and all-state volleyball player is a three-sport stud who almost never was.

"I'm the tallest girl in my family. I didn't start playing sports until 8th grade and I didn't play basketball until 9th grade," Young recalls. "And I wanted to quit the first day."

Oklahoma State is glad she didn't throw in the towel as a young teen.

One might think when you have the abilities to join such a select list that you could count on your fingers, the draw might be fame, notoriety, claiming a piece of history. But for Young the draw is much simpler - sibling rivalry.

Young has a goal to make that list and prove something to her older brother, Michael.

"I'm a big competitor with my brother and he keeps me pushing, and he's shorter than me and he can dunk with two hands, so that was my goal - to outdunk him."

If and when it happens?

"He'd probably still say I'm whack," Young said with a laugh. "But no, he tries to knock me sometimes because he knows I'm that person, I want to compete with him and I want to prove him wrong."

Along with her brother, Young has someone else to prove her skills to, OSU head coach Kurt Budke.

"Toni just makes it seem so easy sometimes and I'm on her every day, I'm demanding more every day," Budke said. "There's a lot of times she thinks she's giving her best and I know there's more in there to give. I'm going to stay on her and I'm going to try to drag that out of her until I get the 100 percent. And she knows that. She knows I love her and she's knows it's my job to get the best out of her and we haven't seen it yet."

Her opportunities in her sophomore campaign are waning, as the Cowgirls await the WNIT brackets to determine if she'll get another shot to shine. Even if they're in the field, odds are the in-game dunk will have to wait. But Young is emerging into that big-time player that some have said looks nearly unguardable from the floor on occasions.

She's put up averages of 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds while adding 53 steals and 50 blocks in her second season at OSU. Since a 30-point, 13-rebound game against Texas Tech on February 9th, she's been on a tear. Young closed the season averaging 19.2 points and 11.3 rebounds a night in the final nine games of the season. To start the 2011 calendar year, Young was performing at 65 percent of her potential, according to Budke. Her late season numbers indicate that percentage is climbing.

For someone that has just six years of basketball experience, her progress and talent on the court can be considered somewhat remarkable.

Back to that elusive dunk.

Maybe it isn't all sibling rivalry. She knows the historical significance of etching her place in the record books as a diva of dunk.

"I read this paper and I'll be the eighth person. In OSU - actually the first person in OSU - the eighth person in college to dunk in a game and I want to be one of those people, one of the shorter girls that can dunk."

Budke wants to see her fly high and slam one down too.

"She's got to build up her strength a little bit more to where she can play 30 minutes late in the game and go get her one," Budke said. "There's a lot more to give."

If there is a lot more to give, OSU has a lot more to gain. Hopefully in the eyes of both Toni Young and the fans in Stillwater, gains of leaps and bounds - down the hardwood, into the lane and flying high - all with a slam dunk finish.

 

Current collegiate dunking divas:

Georgeann Wells (6-7) - West Virginia; 1984

Charlotte Smith (6-0) - North Carolina; 1994

Michelle Snow (6-5) - Tennessee; 2000

Sancho Lyttle (6-4) - Houston; 2003

Candace Parker (6-4) - Tennessee; 2005

Sylvia Fowles (6-5) - LSU; 2007

Brittney Griner (6-8) - Baylor; 2009