It’s really hard-pressed for Norman North sophomore Trae Young to go anywhere this summer without attracting eyes – and most likely an offer to follow.
Before this most recent AAU session started for Young and the Mo-Kan Elite, his offer list didn’t extend much further than the middle tier of the Big 12. Nearby Oklahoma had offered as had Kansas State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, UConn, Houston and Baylor.
Things changed during his three trips to tournaments this spring – to Bentonville, Ark., Hampton, Va. and Lexington, KY. The biggest schools have come calling. North Carolina , Michigan and Duke have checked in and shown what Young called, “strong interest.”
One of the youngest player on the EYBL circuit because he is playing up an age group is stealing the show, while running the point for his team and having something to prove as a 6-foot guard without major national recognition.
“I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder,” Young said. “. . . . I’m always going to play with a chip on my shoulder. I’m always going to play like I have something to prove. That’s just what has been built in me.”
Young, who is a three-star point guard but will most likely rank in the top 150 when the new rankings come out, grew up with a need to prove himself and a love for his hometown team.
He watched his first Oklahoma game when Taylor Griffin was playing for the Sooners, but Griffin’s younger brother wasn’t. As a ball boy, Young saw stars like Willie Warren, Tony Crocker and Anthony Johnson up close. Then, there was Taylor Griffin’s older brother – current NBA star Blake Griffin.
“Blake was a star, a superhero,” Young said. “. . . When I was a kid, I was just a huge fan.”
Young, whose EYBL team will play in Houston this weekend after taking last weekend off, has done everything to impress on the national level. In a game in Lexington featuring two top-five recruits, Young scored 29 points while shooting just under 50 percent. He had five rebounds, three assists and flashed his creativity on the ball and his explosive quickness.
“Young’s jump shot is a weapon, as he has deep range and is able to go off the bounce for mid-range pull-ups and floaters,” Scout National Recruiting Analyst Evan Daniels wrote in late April after his stand-out game in Lexington. “In a big setting, Young played with poise and confidence and on Friday was the most productive player on the court. To go with the ball handling and shot making ability, he has good vision and is a quality passer.
“He drew rave reviews in Hampton and based on what we saw today, he’s ready to quickly move up the 2017 point guard list.”
Young said teams have told him that they love his shot and his ability to “run the show.” While he called the run of offers a blessing, it wasn’t unexpected for him.
“As hard as I work, I feel like I was prepared for this,” Young said. “I didn’t know it would happen this early, but I knew eventually with God on my side and as hard as I work, this would be happening.”
As the reigning national champion, Duke’s status in the elite isn’t questionable, and it doesn’t take to many flips into the history books to see North Carolina’s run of dominance. UCLA and Kansas are in the same class as some of the top programs in the history of college basketball.
Outside of Kentucky, there might not be four bigger schools when it comes to college hoops.
With all the big schools knocking, where does that leave Young and Oklahoma, which was the second school to offer Young?
“OU is a big school to me,” Young said of the campus that is less than eight miles from his home. “. . . OU is a big school. Coach Kruger is a great coach and a legend. I look at everything. I’m just enjoying this. I’m looking at everything carefully. OU is a great program.”
During Young’s sophomore season at Norman North, he came to multiple games at the Lloyd Noble Center. There were members of the coaching staff at a small handful of his games all season long – watching him play against top-ranked Mustang and current Oklahoma 2016 commit Kristian Doolittle and Edmond Memorial.
It’s not about the size of the program for Young. It’s about the fit. Staying home is clearly still well within the possibility for Young.
“That’s something that would be pretty cool to do: Just staying home and going to a school like that,” he said. “Now, it’s just determining if the fit is great. Building this relationship with coach Kruger and the coaching staff, it’s just been great. We’re going to continue to talk and continue to build this relationship.”