He's in front of me, sitting across the table.
He's not a specter or a ghost.
He is real and so is his game.
B.J. Young is one of the most sought after basketball players in the nation. Providence, Baylor, Indiana, Marquette, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Iowa, Iowa State and Louisville are pursuing him.
He's in the discussion for best all around hooper in the Class of 2011, which, by all accounts, is one of the toughest classes to come up in St. Louis.
Even with Brad Beal, Ben McLemore, Shaq Boga, Roosevelt Jones and Dantiel Daniels, Young, 17, has the skill set to compete with any of them.
He stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 174-pounds. He has the wingspan of a pterodactyl, his arms stretch out somewhere around 6-9.
His length can make him a defensive problem. But it's his offense that will pay his way to college. Young scores like it was what he was put on this planet to do. Pull ups, fade aways, layups, dunks, floaters, runners, finger rolls. If there is a way to put the ball in the basket, Young uses it.
He spent the summer months grabbing national attention with his scoring outbursts for St. Louis Gameface. He averaged 37 points a game on the summer circuit, something not easily done when you're playing some of the best competition in the nation. He was named one of five "Workout Warriors" at the exclusive NBA Camp.
But the summer has been Young's time to shine. The summer is kind to him. The heat and the hardwood have always treated him right.
It's the winter that has been hard for Young.
For all his gifts and all his talent, Young has yet to complete a winter season with a high school basketball team.
He started out at Christian Brothers College but was expelled. He landed at Hazelwood Central, and, after playing 16 games on the varsity as a sophomore, he was kicked off the varsity after five games as a junior. In those five games, though, he averaged 17 points.
Young isn't shy about admitting he's made some bad decisions at both CBC and Hazelwood Central. He did dumb things and paid the price.
Now, as school is about to begin, Young finds himself starting over, again. He's enrolled at McCluer North and, from everything he's said, he plans on spending this winter on the court.
"I feel like I've grown up a lot," he said. "When basketball was taken away from me (last winter), I realized it was a privilege. It makes me play every game like it's my last."
McCluer North boys basketball coach Randy Reed certainly feels like Young is prepared to make the most out of his last chance. Everything Young has done says to Reed the young man has matured.
"It's a matter of maturity," Reed said. "He's a leader. He wanted to lead by example. He's coming into a winning program and he didn't have a head butt with that. He wants to be a part of that."
At no point did Reed consider not letting Young on his team. Despite reputation and rumor, Reed felt that it was much too early to give up on someone so young. Especially one that seems to be putting things in their proper perspective and place.
"I've seen a young man who admits his mistakes and wants to play Division I basketball," Reed said.
Even one of those people who Young has burned is rooting for him. Hazelwood Central coach Josh Martin praised Young's basketball talents and said he was happy to see Young find a place to play.
Even if it's at McCluer North.
"That's a great challenge for us," Martin said of Central's Suburban North and district tournament rival. "Hopefully, he takes advantage (of his opportunity)."
Second chances are hard to come by. Third chances, well, those are few and far between. This is Young's last shot at making his goal of landing a Division I scholarship a reality. Reed and Young both stated that academics would not be a problem. Nor should his eligibility be in question with the Missouri State High School Activities Association.
All Young has to do is stay out of trouble, get busy in the classroom and keep grinding in the gym.
If he does that, we'll see him this winter.
I, for one, can't wait.