Trae Young was always an anomaly among elite basketball recruits. Players with Young’s credentials — McDonald’s All-American, five stars next to his name — are supposed to be big and fast and explosive, like incubating lottery picks still learning how to channel their physical gifts.
Players with Young’s credentials are also not supposed to stay home for college. They go to Duke or Kentucky or Kansas. Young gave heavy consideration to joining the Jayhawks, but ultimately decided his heart wasn’t there. Instead, he chose the school just down the street from where he grew up.
From Norman North High School to University of Oklahoma, Young has risen to prominence for no other than reason than he’s really good. He’s already proving it for the Sooners just five games into his college career.
Young is currently averaging 28.2 points and 8.6 assists per game for an Oklahoma team off to a 4-1 start. He is 0.1 points away from leading the nation in scoring, an honor held by North Carolina A&T’s Femi Olujobi at the moment.
How does a freshman generously listed at 6’2, 180 pounds, who probably can’t dunk, turn into the most productive point guard in college basketball immediately? This is how the Sooners’ new star is doing it.
Young can shoot from anywhere on the floor
Young has been excellent in just about every game he’s played for Oklahoma, but his breakthrough came against Oregon on Sunday at the PK80 tournament. That’s where Young erupted for 43 points and seven assists on 11-of-22 shooting, showcasing the full scope of his abilities in the process.
The bedrock of Young’s offensive game is his shooting ability. He already has a rare talent for making jumpers with deep range off the dribble. He can get these shots whenever he wants:
College basketball teams just aren’t prepared for a player who can break the rhythm of the game like this. Young can shoot at any time, from anywhere, and he has the confidence to make it.
What are you supposed to do about this?
Nothing, as the Ducks found out the hard way.
OK, one more from his 28-point, five-assist effort vs. Arkansas on Saturday:
Good luck defending that.
He’s a crafty finisher in the paint, too
Young isn’t beating anyone above the rim, but he’s still found ways to finish around the hoop. The floater is a necessary move for any undersized guard, and Young already has it in his bag of tricks.
He’s a gifted playmaker
This is how Young keeps defenses off balance: Not only is he a threat to pull up at any time, he also has excellent vision and can drop a dime on an unsuspecting defender.
Right now, hix 8.6 assists per game rank No. 4 in the country. So if you’re keeping track at home: He’s top five in both scoring and assists.
Young is also an elite free throw shooter
Young’s big scoring night against Oregon was supplemented by his excellence from the line, where he made 17 of 18 foul shots. On the year he’s shooting 89.4 percent from the charity stripe.
So who does he compare to?
Young has said he models his game after Steve Nash and Stephen Curry. It shows. That’s not to say Young is the next Curry — no one is — but he’s effective in similar ways at the college level.
Oklahoma endured one of the biggest drop offs in college basketball last season, going from a 29-win Final Four team to an 11-win team that finished ninth in the Big 12. You can directly point to the departure of Buddy Hield for that. There’s nothing like a superstar in basketball.
Young looks like exactly that for the Sooners at the start of his career. Whether he’s in Norman North for one year or four, he’s proving to be an instant impact point guard who is already among the best in the country at his position. The Trae Young Show is just getting started.