By Keith McShea
GLENS FALLS -- In Western New York, Rasaun Young is known as one of the best basketball players to suit up for the University at Buffalo.
But back home in New Rochelle, it’s just “Crabby.”
Reporters looking for the coach of New Rochelle High School team ask for “Crabby.” Assistant coaches ask “Where’s Crabby?”
The nickname is one that has stuck with Young since he was 9 years old. He decided to imitate a “Little Rascals” scene, one in which they referred to their teacher, Miss Crabtree, in a more familiar way.
“I said ‘Hey Crabby’ to the teacher,” said Young. “I said it and I got in a little trouble. Ever since then, they started calling me ‘Crabby.’ … But it never made it up there [to Buffalo]."
Crabby is making quite a name for himself in his first year as coach of his alma mater, as Young and New Rochelle will play for the for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class AA championship at 3:15 p.m. Sunday.
The championship berth marks the continuation of a fantastic season for New Rochelle, which had its struggles during what is now a 16-9 campaign before receiving national attention after an amazing three-quarter court buzzer-beater by senior Khalil Edney beat Mount Vernon in the Section I (Westchester County) championship.The shot was featured for several episodes of Sportscenter, Young and Edney were interviewed on Good Morning America, and many other national outlets featured New Rochelle’s win.
“To tell you the truth, I can't [put it into words],” Young said of his first season. “Ever since ‘The Shot,’ the press, the interviews, it's just been amazing. I really haven't had time to sit back and say, ‘Wow, look what we accomplished.’ Of course, we're not done yet. That’s the biggest thing about the kids. They want to win the state championship. They’re locked in. They’re focused.”
In its third victory since “The Shot,” New Rochelle beat Section XI (Suffolk County, L.I.) champion Northport, 60-46, Saturday afternoon to reach Sunday's final. The school that natives call "New Ro" will play Section V (Rochester area) champion Bishop Kearney, which beat Section II (Albany area) winner Troy in overtime, 65-58.
Young’s time at UB comes in handy in his coaching, whether it is the defense inspired by one he played as a Bull under Tim Cohane during his standout career, or the fact that his players know what he’s talking about when it comes to basketball.
“They know I’m not blowing smoke,” said Young. “The funny thing about it, these kids know everything I’ve accomplished. They’re on the internet, and they can tell me more stuff about what I accomplished than I know … Whenever I tell them something, I say, ‘If you don’t believe me, look it up.’ “
Young, UB's all-time leading scorer, was inducted to UB’s Athletic Hall of Fame in his first year eligible after the guard scored 1,908 points in the Bulls’ formative years as a Division I program. He averaged a conference-high 19.8 points as a senior, 19.6 his junior year and 17.2 for his career (he was red-shirted one season) and was a three-time, first-team All-Mid-Continent Conference pick.
Young says he maintains contact with his former teammates, like Kelvin Robinson, and that he maintains contact with the program. “Every year I usually go up there to check a game out, but we were a little bit too busy this year,” Young said with a laugh. “Last year they played at Iona [located in New Rochelle], and I was there with my Buffalo shirt on. I got killed, being from New Rochelle, people were like, 'What’s wrong with you? Are you kidding me?' It was great."
Until he was asked about it after New Rochelle’s game Saturday, he did not know of Friday’s surprising news that UB had fired coach Reggie Witherspoon.
"No," he said with stunned disappointment, before pausing for a moment. "That's the thing about college. It's a big business. ... He was just a game or two away. A game or two away."
Young, a 1998 grad, did not play for Witherspoon (who started in the 99-00 season) but said he would talk with the coach from time to time.
"That's why, when people ask me, 'Oh, you might leave,' I say 'I'm never leaving high school,' " he said. "That's not something I aspire to do -- college. That's why I'm never leaving high school."
And if he has his way, Young will never leave New Rochelle. He is a fireman as well as a security officer within the New Rochelle district in addition to his coaching duties. Young was a longtime assistant under Bob Cimmino at Mount Vernon prior to getting the New Rochelle job.
His older brother, Rashiem, was a standout forward and two-year starter at Buffalo State before coaching with the Bengals for eight seasons. He is Rasaun’s top assistant.
"This is what I’ve been waiting for for a very long time," Rasaun said. "I love New Rochelle, born and raised. I’m a fireman and I’m active in the community -- we have different summer programs for the kids. This is where I want to be, this is where I want to stay. I’m here to stay."
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New Rochelle is seeking a rare state championship double. The Huguenots won the Class AA football state title by routing Orchard Park, 34-6, at the Carrier Dome in November. Edney and multi-talented Joe Clarke are key members of both squads.