After a game filled with literal blood, sweat, and tears, Nicky Young’s Most Hated Players are the 2019 Drew League Champions.
The blood was both metaphorical and real. First, the bad blood between these two teams has simmered for years. MHP’s core players Nick Young, DJ Shelton and Victor Rudd previously played under the Problems colors in 2016, only for that iteration of the Problems team to get eliminated in the first round of the Playoffs that year. Along the way, they alienated Problems coach Mark Caudillo by appearing in that final game sporting “MHP” patches on their Problems uniforms, adding insult to injury.
That was also the last year Nick played in the Championship game—with Javale McGee and Juglife, not Problems, after he switched teams in the last game of the regular season. Juglife lost that game to eventual champions BB4L, who completed an undefeated season with that championship.
Young hasn’t been to the final game since then, despite returning to lead MHP to the Playoffs in nearly every season since. The 2019 Championship game was the first time they were able to advance past the Semifinals in five years.
Once there, though, the remaining roadblock on their path to victory was Problems’ motivated players, many of whom came to the game with their own championship experiences to drive them. The game started with injuries early, as MHP forward Jordan Bell left the game leaking blood during a shaky start. Both teams had played tough, overtime games just one day before and looked it.
But once the court had been cleaned up, the fight started in earnest. Though MHP had a clear physical advantage in size, it was Problems’ aggressive defense that kept them in the game. Problems shooters Garrett Nevels, Bruce Massey, and Jaylen Bland were also hindered by tired legs, preventing them from amassing the usual avalanche of threes that had sparked their regular season blowouts and big comebacks. They stayed right with MHP’s players though, trailing by only two in the third when disaster struck.
Nick hit the floor howling after a turnover, stopping play as the crowd held its collective breath when he didn’t immediately pop right back up. Thanks to the ministrations of Courtney’s Corner’s athletic trainers, he was able to leave the floor, but thanks to the bruised shoulder he’d suffered taking a knee while diving for a loose ball, he was unable to return to the game, leaving his MHP backcourt teammates Shannin Sharpe and Elijah Stewart to carry the offense in his absence.
Carry it they did, with Stewart, who has been called the X-factor for MHP’s offense all season, coming alive on both ends of the floor and Sharpe entering a flow state on offense that saw him freezing his defenders at the arc and strolling to the cup with ease.
Stewart noted after the game that his role has always been the same, taking issue with the “X-factor” designation, saying: “I’m the glue, basically. I’ve been playing for the last four years. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been averaging 20 points. That hasn’t been an X-factor. That’s a known factor.”
Sharpe said he just took the loss of Young’s scoring and size in stride. “When somebody as important as Nick goes down, somebody’s got to step up. We took the opportunity that presented itself.” Sharpe and Stewart’s willingness to accept the challenge of pushing the tempo and controlling the game manifested in a late 14-2 run to close the game as they executed in the halfcourt, locked down on defense, and ended the contest with a series of transition plays that sealed the victory for MHP.
No one was happier about the outcome than Young.
“I was so scared, like, ‘Oh man, why’d I have to get hurt right now?’” he said, while seeing the clock wind down on the Championship game with his team in the lead for the first time was the fulfillment of a lifetime of Drew League dreams.
“I been waiting for damn 20 years for this,” Young said after the game. “I had to die to get this championship!”
He didn’t exactly die but it’s clear that the blood, sweat, and tears he and his team shed were worth it for him, as evidenced by his future plans. What is he going to do next year?
“I’m retired,” he joked, grinning from ear to ear.