With six points on two goals and four assists in Saturday’s 12-7 victory over No. 7 Virginia, Ryan Young leads No. 6 Maryland in both assists (15) and points (27) this season.
And he’s thriving despite turmoil in his personal life.
The senior attackman’s mother, Maria, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the winter of 2008, his freshman year. This season, the Manhasset, N.Y., native wears his helmet with the word “MOM” etched on a piece of paper taped on the bottom part, near his left jawline.
Young told The Diamondback, the campus newspaper, that his mother is never far from his thoughts. “I wear this little thing on my helmet,” Young told the paper’s Jacob Engelke in an article published in Wednesday’s editions. “I think about her every time before I go out there. It motivates me and helps me play my hardest.”
Terps coach John Tillman said the situation has been rough for Young, who returned home immediately after the team’s 9-8 overtime loss to Duke on March 5 due to concerns that Maria Young had taken a turn for the worse.
“He had to go home after the Duke game to be there because we weren’t sure what was going to happen,” Tillman said Wednesday. “His immediate family felt like it was important for him to get up there. So he did leave for a few days that week. We supported him 100 percent and told him to come back when he felt like he needed to. … He came back three days later, and it seemed like she was moving in a positive direction. I think she’s had some ups and downs, and we’re hopeful that she continues the ups and stays strong.”
As a show of support, Young’s teammates have attached purple ribbons to their helmets, and Tillman wears a black Under Armour hat with a purple insignia during games. Young has partnered with The Lusgarten Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to raising awareness about pancreatic cancer.
While few players would have the strength to perform in practices and in games, Tillman said Young has borne the strain of his family’s pain without complaint.
“You don’t meet a lot of guys like him,” Tillman said. “He’s so passionate and so energetic and he’s a very caring guy, a family-first guy. He puts his heart and soul into everything that he does. He cares so much about his mom. It’s been tough on him because he wants to help in every way possible and be there to help support her. … His teammates have done a great job of rallying around him and being there to help him support he and his family. He’s done just an outstanding job of being able to juggle all of it.”