Lost ex-teammate inspires Lincoln at NCAA Women’s Division II Tournament

As the University of Lincoln women’s basketball team celebrated winning the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament last weekend in Baltimore and earning a berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament, it there was someone in the hearts and minds of the celebrating players and coaches.

One of their former teammates, DeAshia Young, died suddenly Feb. 5 in Detroit.

“[Young] was the leader on the court for us,” said assistant coach Cherelle Dennis, who coached the playmaker for two seasons. “I’ve described it to so many people, that kid would walk through a brick wall if you asked him to.”

Young last played for the Lions in the 2019-20 season, when she averaged 13.2 points, 6.0 assists and 4.9 rebounds as a senior. At this year’s CIAA tournament, the team wore black t-shirts that read #Allfor1, Young’s jersey number on the back, and a picture of Young on the front during warm-ups.

“For [the team]to lose [Young], I tell people that was probably the best and the worst thing that could have happened, because it kind of put us into overdrive,” Dennis said. “Of course we wanted to win everything for ourselves, but I think it’s become something where we have to go and win. [the CIAA title] for her.”

This season, Lincoln started the season successfully — but not massively dominating — at 15-6. Since Feb. 5, the Lions are 7-1, riding a six-game winning streak and claiming the school’s first CIAA Tournament title.

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“Congratulations to the young girls who didn’t get a chance to play with DeAshia because they kind of embraced the [do it for her] mentality,” Dennis said.

Only six of Lincoln’s current 14 players have played with Young.

“[Young] was just goofy and really down to earth,” said Bryanna Brown, a fifth-year senior and CIAA Player of the Year this season. “She would see the potential in you and want you to do better and excel with her.”

Said Brown, recalling Young’s motivating words: “She was like, ‘Bri, you could have a double-digit GPA if you shot more. When you pass the ball, just shoot. Do not hesitate.

Brown credits Young for his offensive confidence. His advice worked: After averaging less than 10 points per game in each of his first three seasons, Brown’s average has skyrocketed to 17.7 this season.

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“She had her personal goals, but she was more of an ‘us’ versus ‘me’ person, and I think that’s what I care about with. [Young]said Joy Morton, who was Young’s roommate on road trips. “She put everything she had in [basketball].”

Freshman head coach Janice Washington didn’t coach Young, but Dennis and his teammates frequently remind him of his legacy.

“As a coach, I must have been tough with this kid,” Dennis said. “[Young] had a Detroit mentality and she was pushing the buttons. There were several practices where she had to be put aside, even matches. It was just DeAshia. You never knew what you were going to get, but in the end, she meant well.

“Everyone thought that [Young] was a tough body, but this girl had weak points,” Morton said.

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Morton and Dennis stayed in touch with members of Young’s family. Morton said they followed Lincoln’s success, watching the team keep Young’s legacy alive.

In late January, Brown and Morton recalled talking to Young on the phone. They described her as “happy” and “optimistic”.

Before hanging up, Morton said Young gave them a final rallying cry for the rest of the season:

“Go get what you have.”

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