Trae Young has the support system -- if not the on-court help -- for even his worst game
Oklahoma's star freshman has a father who has been there and done that
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Following the worst night of his son's college career, Rayford Young agreed with what almost qualifies as heresy at this point.
Trae Young stunk. You know it. Oklahoma's superstar guard knows it. His dad surely knew it following the No. 4 Sooners' 87-69 loss Tuesday to unheralded Kansas State.
More than that, the loss revealed a weakness in both Young and Oklahoma previously not defined this clearly.
We knew Oklahoma is nothing without Trae Young. The surprise Tuesday night was the Sooners were pretty much nothing with him.
"He's trying to do too much," Young's father said in the Bramlage Coliseum tunnel near the OU locker room. "He wants to win so bad. He's got to understand in this league coaches make a lot of money to scout you and shut you down."
That is exactly what is happening before our eyes. A kid who just became the first major-college player in 20 years to combine for 40 points, at least 10 rebounds and 10 threes in a game (Saturday vs. TCU), indeed, can't do it all.
Certainly not in the ball-busting Big 12.
"That's the difference between now and the beginning of the year," said Rayford Young, a former Texas Tech guard. "People didn't understand how to get the ball out of his hands. Now there is some film on him."
The supposed national player of the year is hitting the heart of conference play. While we slot the Sooners into the Final Four and Trae Young into the Stephen Curry stratosphere, let's remember there is going to be push back in the nation's toughest conference.
The Sooners are 2-2 in their last four conference games. That's not a disaster. It is, though, a significant snapshot. In the losses, both West Virginia and K-State have made it a point to cut the head off the snake.
Or in this case, humble a kid just trying to find his way through the hosannas.
Kansas State decided to double Young at the top of the arc each time down. The Wildcats wanted him to be a facilitator, not a scorer.
Trae Young was so stubborn, he wasn't much of either. A career-high nine turnovers last week against TCU were followed by a career-high 12 turnovers against the Wildcats.
"I played terrible," Young said. "You can blame a lot of this loss on me. You can blame all this loss on me."
This was a double-double of the worst kind. Young's 20 points were the second-fewest since his college debut on Nov. 12 against Omaha.
They came on laborious 8-of-21 shooting.
For the first time this season, it was hard to watch Trae Young.
"Don't worry about going out there and keep putting up those crazy numbers," dad told son. "This is the best league in the country. You're not going to be able to do that every night."
"I hate using the [excuse], I'm still a freshman," son told the media. "I'll get better. That won't continue. I'm not going to blame it on that."
Dad should know. Rayford Young averaged 14.1 points in a four-year career at Texas Tech from 1996-2000. Those were in the Big 12's formative years.
Twenty years later, this Big 12 is the best it's ever been -- pared down to a sleek 10 teams that habitually produce those night-in, night-out ball-busters.
Rayford Young watches it all with the perspective of a medical supplies salesman watching the world fawn over his son.
"It's all premature," Rayford said of the praise. "For me it makes me nervous. I'm 40 years old. I know this thing can turn in a heartbeat. Don't rest on your laurels.
"He'll be upset and he'll be devastated but I'll get on him too a little bit. I'll pull him back to earth a little bit."
An hour before game time, it was the Trae Young Show that was pulling into town. The nation's best player playfully shot those now-famous floating push shots over the outstretched arms of 6-foot-9 teammate Khadeem Lattin. Three out of four swish from about 26 feet.
It was some of that Steph Curry stuff we've been hearing about. But three minutes into the game, Young had two turnovers. A few ticks later he had five.
He can still hustle: In the first half, Young chased down his miss of a front end one-and-one, took it to the corner and drained a three.
He can also hustle unwisely: Young made one of his famous driving layups in the second half, then swiped at K-State's Xavier Sneed taking the ball out of bounds. It was careless.
Sneed milked the (maybe) slight blow to his chin. The officials went to the monitor for a review. No call.
Coming out of the under-eight timeout in the second half, Young actually sat. For 2 minutes, 27 seconds it was obvious something was going besides a mere blow.
"I think he did it so Trae can look at the game," his dad said.
Or what had become of it on this depressing night. With 2:38 left, the end was not merciful. Young crashed into a defender and was called for a charge, his league-record 12th turnover.
Oklahoma has problems besides a slump from its best player. The Sooners are last in Big 12 scoring defense -- 331st nationally -- allowing more than 80 per game. Much like their football counterparts who outscored everyone on their way to the College Football Playoff, the basketball Sooners are going to have to tighten things up.
It's imperative Lon Kruger develop secondary scoring if this Final Four dream is realistic. But let's not get crazy about San Antonio just yet. Kruger and the Sooners haven't won here in six years.
At the end in Bramlage, they were chanting "Overrated", and there were further lessons to be learned for the nation's best player in the nation's toughest conference.
"This and West Virginia are two of the toughest places to play in the Big 12," Rayford Young said. "Everyone's watching film. Everyone knows what you do …
"I want to have him to still keep learning the game. Luckily he's got a coach and he's got a dad who can pull him back."
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