By Michael Kinney
In what may have been the worst kept secret in college basketball was made official Tuesday when freshman Trae Young announced he was leaving Oklahoma to make himself available for the NBA draft.
It’s a move most saw as a possibility the day Young committed to the Sooners as a senior at Norman North. But it became more and more evident over the course of his freshman campaign that he would not be long for the college game.
“Coach Lon Kruger and his staff started to recruit me as a ninth-grader at Norman North High School, and I trusted him from the beginning,” said Young. “As much as anything, Coach Kruger taught me about poise, about handling pressure and difficult circumstances with calm and clear-mindedness.”
Young wasn’t as heralded as some of the freshmen who entered the 2017-18 season. Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr was considered the top player in the class and Alabama’s Collin Sexton was seen as the best point guard.
Yet, it didn’t take long for Young to quickly become a force and put the OU basketball program back on the national scene.
At 6-foot-2, Young is the first player in NCAA Division I history to finish the season leading the country in both scoring (27.4) and assists (8.7).
Young’s 27.4 points per game mark the highest scoring average ever recorded by an Oklahoma or Big 12 player. His 8.7 dimes per game are good for the best assist average in OU history and are second in Big 12 history only to Doug Gottlieb of Oklahoma State (8.8 assists per game in 1998-99).
According to the Sooners, Young is the first major-conference player in NCAA Division I history to total 800 points and 250 assists in the same season, finishing the year with 876 points and 279 assists.
“We’re extremely pleased for Trae,” Kruger. “He had the type of season that deserves this attention and put him in the position that he’s in now. We’re very excited for him going forward and the next chapter in his basketball career. We expect it to all work out for him in a fantastic way.”
Young’s season didn’t go without its difficulties. After a blistering start where he seemed to be the run-away choice for the Player of the Year in the Big 12 and in the nation, Oklahoma hit a rocky patch once it entered conference play.
After beating Kansas on Jan. 23, the Sooner won only three more games. And they didn’t win a single game away from Lloyd Noble Center in 2018.
During the postseason, was one and done in the Big 12 tourney and the NCAA tourney, where many college basketball analysts didn’t think OU belonged.
I will regret that I didn’t help the Sooners win a national championship. I have always wanted to honor the legacies of Wayman Tisdale, Blake Griffin and Buddy Hield, OU legends who led the program to Elite Eights and Final Fours,” Young told ESPN. “I wanted to take the Sooners the distance — all the way to a national championship. When I chose OU, I imagined I’d have more than one chance at the NCAA tournament, but things changed and this season became my only opportunity.”
According to CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish, Young will be a lottery pick and has him going to Chicago with the No. 8 pick.
Several have stated Young is not ready for the grind of the NBA. Young doesn’t seem to mind the doubters.
“I know there will be doubts again as I prepare for the draft,” Young told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. “I don’t pretend to be ready to play in the NBA today, but I am determined to do what I’ve always done: invest in the work to prepare for the league and the incredible challenges it presents. I’m going to start training immediately for the draft, building up strength throughout my body, sharpening my skills and studying the best of the best. I’ll never regret a moment I spent at the University of Oklahoma, or my decision to stay home and become a Sooner for life.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer for Eyeamtruth.com