OU, Trae Young worked for both sides
History is going to be made Thursday evening no matter when former Oklahoma star point guard Trae Young is selected in the NBA Draft.
Young, after setting the college basketball world ablaze as a freshman, opted to leave Norman and is expected to be chosen among the initial 10 picks at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
He’s the hometown kid from Norman North High that showed you don’t have to be at a Duke or a Kentucky or a Kansas to succeed at a high level to help you realize your dreams.
He’s the first ever one-and-done player in the storied career for OU coach Lon Kruger and the first for Sooners basketball.
On the court? He put on a show almost every night. For anybody that’s forgotten, Young became the first player ever to lead the nation in points (27.4) and assists (8.7) per game.
Young tied the single-game NCAA record with 22 assists in one game, setting the OU and Big 12 record in the process. He was named the USBWA 2018 Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year, named after the OU legend.
He took a chance on OU. The Sooners took a chance on Young. It paid off for both sides. Young is going to reach the pinnacle Thursday evening, while OU is looked at in a much different light when it comes to recruiting.
Watching Young operate was all Denton (Texas) Guyer point guard De’Vion Harmon needed to see to know OU was the right choice for his 2019 commitment.
“Coach Kruger told Trae the same thing he told me,” Harmon said. “I watched every game this year, and Coach Kruger told the truth. He said Trae was going to be free, have free reign and play the game of basketball the way he wants.
“He went from being maybe a three-and-done to a one-and-done and a lottery pick in the Draft.”
That’s not to say going to OU is now a shortcut to being picked in the lottery moving forward, but the growth and maturation in someone’s game can happen in Norman with Kruger just as it can anywhere else.
“It shows the quality of the experience and the opportunity for a student-athlete to take their special skills and develop them here, at home, and be able to launch into the top of their profession when their playing time is done,” athletic director Joe Castiglione said. “In today’s world, sometimes that comes even after one year.”
It wasn’t always smooth for Young or OU last season. There were definitely some bumps in the road. That’s OK. The ability to navigate your way through those trials and tribulations are sometimes just as important as enjoying the success.
“He lets young players have the freedom to play through your mistakes and figure things out,” said Rockwall (Texas) High star Samuell Williamson, ranked No. 44 in the Rivals 100 and a major OU target. “That’s what I like most about Coach Kruger.”
Nobody knew what to expect when Young signed with OU. A five-star hometown prospect, expectations were high. The hype was incredible.
And there’s no way of knowing how Young would have fared had he picked KU or Kentucky, but he’s a Sooner. Thursday evening will see Young take that next step, and his time at OU was pivotal in preparing him for what’s next.
“As much as anything, Coach Kruger taught me about poise, about handling pressure and difficult circumstances with calm and clear-mindedness,” Young said. “My teammates at OU were incredible. Sometimes, they absorbed criticism that was beyond unfair.
“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."