NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Trae Young tends to go places in a hurry. Whether he bolts to the NBA is now the question on everyone’s mind at Oklahoma.
Young led the nation in scoring and assists during the regular season, and he just won the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award. Many experts project him as a high first-round draft pick if he leaves for the NBA after this season.
Trae has said he will sit down with his family after the season to decide what is next. His, father, former Texas Tech guard Rayford Young, said they will consider the controversy surrounding the NCAA, the projected strength of the draft and what Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger says about it all.
“You know, so much has happened this year — so much success and so much media scrutiny — that it’s going to be a tough decision,” Rayford Young told The Associated Press. “Nothing is guaranteed, but we definitely need to think about some things after this season.”
He said original plan was for Trae Young to stay at Oklahoma for multiple years. That was before Young averaged 27.5 points and 8.9 assists per game during the regular season.
“We watched throughout the history of the game — that Steph Curry stayed three years, you know,” he said. “Russell Westbrook stayed two years. Chris Paul stayed two years. There are not many kids that stayed just one year and had gone and really been successful. I mean, you have your Kyrie Irvings and your John Walls, but for us, our goal as a family was for him to go to school and get a good education and continue to grow on and off the court and let his body grow so when the time was right he could step into that next level and be ready.”
Young got off to such a fast start this season that even at just 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, it appeared his offensive talent could potentially offset other concerns, such as his ability to guard on the ball and whether his slender frame could handle NBA punishment. He scored 43 points against Oregon and tied the NCAA record with 22 assists against Northwestern State. He scored a season-high 48 points in a loss at Oklahoma State .
“I don’t know that anyone expected him to do in November, December, and really, throughout the year, what he’s done,” Kruger said. “He’s been off the charts in a lot of ways. I don’t know that anyone could have projected that from the outset.”
Oklahoma was ranked No. 4 in the nation at one point, but losses piled up in February amid concerns about Young’s shot selection. Now, the Sooners have lost eight of ten, including their Big 12 Tournament opener Wednesday against Oklahoma State. Young was bypassed by both the coaches and the AP for Big 12 Player of the Year.
Still, NBA stars LeBron James, Chris Paul and Curry are among his fans. Paul and former Oklahoma star Buddy Hield, who plays for the Sacramento Kings, are among those who have helped him deal with extra attention this season.
“I have a lot of respect for those guys, but very soon I could be playing against them, so I can’t be much of a fan if I’m going to be guarding Steph or guarding a guy like Kyrie (Irving),” Young said last month. “I got to respect them. Hopefully one day I will have a really good relationship with them, but at the same time, I’m going to have to compete against them.”
He already is extremely popular . He already has more than 600,000 Instagram followers, and kids gravitate toward him. But he can’t cash in on his marketability until he goes pro, though money isn’t the sole concern.
“We don’t necessarily as a family need Trae to go to the NBA to take care of the whole family,” Rayford Young said. “I’m not wealthy or rich by any means, but we do OK. I think the determining factor will be how ready he thinks he is, how much fun he is having at OU, and what him and coach Kruger feel about the situation.”
Oklahoma has just one senior — center Khadeem Lattin — and the Sooners could be a top team next season if Young returns. His father knows what the expectations would be, and he remembers the criticism that came with Oklahoma’s six-game losing streak.
“I’ll just tell you as a dad, it kind of scares me because I’m looking at it as if he’s being ridiculed the way he is now, what if he doesn’t come back and average 30 and 10 next year?” he said. “What are people going to say? I’m not going to say that’s going to be the main factor. I know Trae hasn’t thought about that, but for me, I have, so it kind of scares me.”
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