NORTH MUSKEGON – The brotherly dynamic between Champ and James Young is not atypical. As parents Paul and Jill Young describe, they brothers are thick as thieves one moment and at each other’s throats the next.
This school year has been unlike any other, however, for the Young family and that’s because of how it’s been shared. Champ, a senior, and James, a freshman, played varsity football together for North Muskegon in the fall. They’re in choir class together. Now, they’re both starters for the Norsemen’s varsity basketball team.
Champ and James Young can be each other’s biggest supporters and toughest critics – at the same time. Despite any differences in physicality and personality, they’re both highly competitive yet respectful young men. And they both realize that these moments together are fleeting, so they’re very appreciative and doing their best to savor it all.
“It’s wonderful. I love it, I love coming to see them. I like seeing them be teammates instead of competitive with each other,” Jill Young said. “They’re actually really hard on each other, too, in a good way. It’s just been like a dream come true.”
Added Paul Young: “We’re soaking it all in because this is the only year we’ll get to do it.”
Champ, 18, and James, 15, are the middle of the Youngs’ four children. They’re sandwiched between older brother Mack, 20, and sister Delaney, 13.
From the backyard football brawls to basketball battles in the driveway, it’s a constant grudge match between the Young siblings and none of them want to lose.
As the younger two, James and Delaney have taken their lumps from their older brothers. James says, at least partially tongue-in-cheek, his older brothers have been “making me better” since middle school.
While Champ and James get at each other from time to time, they have formed an alliance, an understanding.
For example, they shared a bedroom when they were younger. On occasion, the parents might hear from the next room Champ say to James, “If you say that one more time, I’m coming to the top bunk and making you pay!” Five minutes later, the brothers would be cracking up laughing and devising some way to cause trouble together.
Champ has an interesting vantage point, being the middle of three brothers. He said with a smile that James and Mack “beef the most,” while he kind of wavers between the two.
“It’s kind of cool because I would run with Mack and all his friends when they were still in high school and play pick-up basketball with them, and now I’m the senior and (James) is the freshman,” Champ said.
In football, 6-foot-1, 225-pound Champ Young played offensive line and defensive end for a North Muskegon team that battled throughout the season but was hampered by injuries to key players and finished 4-6 with a playoff berth. One of those injured was James Young, a 6-1, 170-pound starting quarterback, who broke his left collarbone in the seventh game.
James returned to health in time for basketball season, and he joined Champ on the varsity team. Both play their roles for a competitive North Muskegon squad, which is 9-5 overall and 6-3 in the West Michigan Conference, one game behind co-leaders Ravenna and Whitehall after the Norse’s 69-61 home loss to the Vikings Friday in the CatchMark SportsNet Game of the Week.
James, who plays point guard, is averaging seven points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal per game. Champ, a power forward, is producing four points, nearly five rebounds, two assists and a steal per contest.
“I think the biggest part for me is I used to love going to all of his basketball games and football games and I was like, ‘Man, I just really want to play with him,’” James said about Champ. “My mom and dad told me that I might get a chance freshman year (in) football, basketball. I was working for it, I just really wanted to play with my brother, so this is my last chance and I worked for it. He’s just such a good leader. It’s so fun playing with him.”
Said Champ about James: “It’s just really cool for me watching him play sports his whole life and just kind of dominating his grade and everything growing up. I always knew he was going to be a really good athlete, so now we get a chance to play together and he’s outstatting me most nights and he’s balling out here, so it’s been really cool.”
The brothers both boast 3.7 grade-point averages, although James admits that Champ is smarter than him.
James is undoubtedly the better natural athlete, but Champ is a crafty vet, who has learned some tricks of the trade.
They both have it going on in the hair department and it comes naturally: Champ with his self-described “Jheri curls,” and James with his “flow.”
When it comes to singing and dancing, Champ wins and it’s not even close. (Check out the video at the top of this story to hear those pipes and see some moves.)
They’re both charming in their own ways. Their gift of gab comes from their mother, according to Paul Young, who also tipped his cap to Jill for their children’s basketball skills.
Jill Young competed in high school basketball, soccer, softball and swimming in the Chattanooga, Tenn., area. Paul Young competed in football, wrestling and baseball at Muskegon High School. They met in college at Lipscomb University in Nashville.
As the older brother, Champ will keep James in his place. He affectionately calls him “Freshie,” a more personal form of the sometimes derogatory term “Freshman.” But, deep down, Champ knows that James will be running things before long.
“Champ has to work a lot harder for what he gets,” North Muskegon basketball coach Chuck Rypstra said. “Champ was on our team last year and barely got off the bench as a junior. And here his brother is, as a freshman — I mean, he’s starting for us and playing down the stretch of big games.
“But Champ has his own groove going on, too. He’s a really talented singer. He was really good at the talent show and he sings at the choir. James does that, but only because his mom really wants him to,” Rypstra added with a smirk.
A three-year gap exists between Mack and Champ, and between Champ and James. Rypstra can relate, as his sons, Eric and Brandon, share that three-year gap. Brandon is a key member of North Muskegon’s basketball team this season.
Rypstra said his sons never really got the chance to play together in high school. Same goes for Mack and Champ Young, aside from Champ being pulled up to the varsity football team for a playoff game.
That’s one of the many reasons why Champ and James, as well as their parents, are trying to make the most of this special school year.
“Paul and I are so proud of them,” Jill Young said. “Even after all the bunk bed fights and wrestling matches all over our home, they are turning into kind, amazing human beings and we couldn’t be more proud.”
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