By Ken Cross
The dynamic of Trae Young staying in his native Oklahoma to play for the Sooners is something that the elite high school players should look at when they are coming out of high school and try to push into Kentucky or Duke or a blue blood program that collects one-and-done players.
Young was the premiere point guard in the nation last season at Norman North High School and he eschewed all of the overtures from the one-and-done collectors to stay home at Oklahoma and help Lon Kruger push the Sooners program forward. The marriage has worked for both as the Sooners are the highest scoring team in the nation in averaging 95.1 ppg. while Young has been on fire since the opening tip of the Nov. 12 opener against Omaha.
Young leads the nation in scoring and assists at 28.5 ppg. and 10.2 apg. as his innate brand of leadership on the point continues to galvanize the deep Sooners team.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) December 26, 2017
“The extra time in the summer helped, and they’ve consistently gotten better through the first few games,” said Kruger of the Sooners and how they have come together to become a threat to Kansas’s streak of 13 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles, “Guys are moving the ball well, spacing is good, we’re making the extra pass, and Trae can come off and find seams other guys can’t, so guys keep sliding to get open and that puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
Young, who fashions his game like Stephen Curry as he draws comparisons thereof, continued his amazing start with 31 points and 12 assists in a 104-78 win over Northwestern last Friday. It was his fourth game of 30-plus points and his sixth game of double figures in assists in the Sooners’ 10-1 start. The numbers are even more amazing when you consider that no player in the history of college basketball has finished the season in leading the nation in scoring and assists.
“Trae’s ability to dictate and attack coming out of the back court, that frees up a lot of people,” said Kruger on Young’s impact, “Trae’s ability to shoot, a lot of people making the extra pass, moving the ball well, good spacing, and making the right basketball plays. They do a good job of that.”
In adding Young, Oklahoma was obviously going to improve and get back into at least NCAA Tournament discussion. However, this rampant rate of scoring and the ability to blow teams out from the beginning probably want foreseen. Oklahoma has nine players averaging in double figures in minutes as Young leads the team with 32.3 minutes per game.
“You know if you said we’d be whatever we are, 10-1, at this point and we’re playing like we did tonight, then we’ll take that for sure,” Kruger commented, “We just have to keep getting better.
Young’s heroics are far from a one-man show. Christian James had a career high of 19 in the win over Northwestern as he is the Sooners’ second leading scorer. Freshman Brady Manek, another Oklahoma native, has come in and is a nice complement to Young in the 3-ball game as he is second in made threes with 23 as OU is ninth in the nation in threes made with 11.3 per contest.
“A lot of new pieces and unknowns when we started practicing in July, so to be where we are now with so many guys playing with confidence, that’s what you always want,” explained Kruger, “We’ve got a lot of guys playing at a high level. We’ve got to keep working to help continue that.”
The Sooners open Big 12 play on Saturday at undefeated TCU in what looks like a high octane matchup as the Horned Frogs are ranked No. 10 this week, highest in program history.