Oklahoma's Trae Young dazzles again; let the Stephen Curry comparisons begin
Trae Young, a freshman and the nation's top player, has a 21-point first half at Wichita State
If you haven't been paying attention to Oklahoma's sensational freshman point guard Trae Young -- and if you haven't then shame on you, because five weeks into the season, Young has been not merely college basketball's most important player but the sport's most exciting player as well -- then its Saturday afternoon triumph at Wichita State was one of the biggest statement games of the season.
Actually, let's call it the single biggest statement half of the season. When the unranked Sooners (or should we call them the soon-to-be-ranked Sooners?) walked into the Koch Arena locker room at half, Young sported a ridiculous box score -- 21 points, four rebounds and seven assists -- as his team had hung 54 points on the third-ranked Shockers.
It was a holy-crap moment: A team that many believe is the nation's most complete team (Wichita State) was down 15 at half to one of the nation's youngest teams (Oklahoma). A freshman who wasn't ranked in the top 20 in his class by recruiting services was showing why, if the voting happened today, he would be the unanimous pick for national player of the year.
And then, as Wichita State clamped down on Young in the second half, Oklahoma's supporting cast stepped up, specifically freshman power forward Brady Manek, whose 21 points (and five 3-pointers) ensured a dominant 91-83 victory would give this Sooners team the national recognition it deserves.
But let's not talk about Oklahoma's extraordinarily efficient offense (1.15 points per possession going into the Wichita State game, per KenPom.com), or how it boasts one of the nation's fastest tempos. Let's talk about Young. Because you can't talk about Oklahoma without talking about Young. Heck, you can hardly talk about college basketball these days without talking about Trae Young.
Simply put, he's the Steph Curry of college basketball. I don't mean that he is reinventing the game of basketball with superhuman long-distance shooting like Curry has. There is only one Steph Curry, and to compare anyone else to him is folly, especially a teenager. But what Young is doing at Oklahoma is reminiscent of what Curry did at Davidson and at Golden State in the NBA, in that he's a slight but savvy score-first point guard who also happens to be one of the top assist guys in the country. He has one of the highest assist rates in the country despite taking a third of his team's shots. Basically, he's virtually impossible for defenses to stop.
Check this out: On Saturday, against a program that traditionally sports one of the nation's top defenses, Trae Young scored 29 points and passed out 10 assists. For any player, that is a remarkable game. For Trae Young, that was, literally, an average game. He is averaging just shy of 29 points a game, and just shy of nine assists. Against a really talented USC team last week, he got 29 points and nine assists. In a victory against Oregon at the PK80 tournament, he got 43 points and seven assists. Against an Arkansas team that seems like one of the biggest surprises in the SEC, he scored 28 points and dished out five assists. This is what he does.
Trae Young's first five weeks as a college basketball player has been marked by a special mix of must-watch excitement and mature consistency. Most impressively, he saves his best games for the toughest competition.
It's for all these reasons why Young is a clear first place in KenPom.com's player of the year standings and rocketing up NBA draft boards.
So if you haven't been paying attention to Trae Young, it's time to change that. We are being treated to something special and rare. I don't know if his supporting cast is talented or experienced enough for Oklahoma to be considered a Final Four team (though they certainly looked like it Saturday). And I don't know if Young's slight build portends an All-Star NBA career (we said the same thing about Steph Curry). I just know that what he's doing now is a spectacle that is not to be missed.
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