It doesn’t get much more packed in for a high school gym than last Friday evening for Norman (Okla.) High’s home game vs. crosstown rival, Norman North.
The bleachers were full before the girls contest had even started. The student section as raucous and enthusiastic as you’re going to find. A palpable buzz throughout the gym.
Indeed, this is the Trae Young experience. Every. Single. Game. Cheering for him or cheering against him or coming to see just what the big deal is about, this is what Young sees every time he steps onto the court.
Young, a five-star point guard for Norman North, has become the focus of all things Oklahoma high school basketball this season. But those who follow the game in the state know it goes well beyond that.
Even when Young was in junior high, there was always a ‘yea, but’ when it came to the best of the best in Oklahoma high school basketball.
This guy is good, yea, but there is an eighth-grader going to Norman North that might be better. The next year a freshman, the following sophomore. You get the picture.
Young, ranked No. 21 in the Scout 100, has lived up to the potential. Last year he earned the Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior and is well on his way toward doing that once again this season.
“His confidence is something you cannot teach,” coach Bryan Merritt said.
Confidence of when you have four points on 2-of-9 shooting in the first quarter, it’s not going to mean squat in the end. All Young did against rival Norman was score 39 in the next three quarters in an emotional 80-68 victory.
Forty-three points. You don’t even bat an eye when Young does that anymore. In the fourth quarter, he let his passing do the talking with 10 points and three huge assists to break the game open and give Norman North its fifth consecutive road victory. And icing the game with a seeing-is-believing dribbling exhibition culminated by hitting an off balance three-pointer and bowing to the Norman student section.
The Trae Young Experience is real.
“We needed this win to put in a great spot to host regionals,” Young said. “It’s been a tough grind. We’ve had to really tough it out and win them all. We showed some toughness tonight.”
That’s the Norman North side of Trae Young as the Timberwolves have improved to 13-3 overall and finally return home this week. Sooners Illustrated has seen Young score more than 40 points in the three games attended this season.
Then there’s the recruiting side. After more than four years, the finish line can be seen. Young announced Friday afternoon noon CST Feb. 16 at the Norman North gym will be when he makes his college decision.
He made all five of his official visits in the fall, leading people to speculate he was going to sign during the first period for basketball in November. After thinking about it, he opted to wait.
Trips to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas and Kentucky were officially made, and as the months have gone on, it feels like a three-horse race.
Which three schools haven’t been publicly said by Young, but sources and fellow recruiting insiders believe the Sooners and Jayhawks to definitely be in this group for only the ninth McDonald’s All-American to come from the state.
Young has made so many trips to Lloyd Noble Center to watch the Sooners over the years, and it feels like OU coaches Lon Kruger and Chris Crutchfield have done the same for Young. OU played at Texas Tech on Saturday evening but that didn’t stop Kruger and Crutchfield to be in that packed gym Friday evening.
It hasn’t been a banner season for the Sooners. Now standing at 8-14, OU has lost five in a row and 12 of its last 14 games. But you see the signs, you see the hope.
It’s there when you watch freshman guard Kameron McGusty realizing his Scout 100 potential. It’s there when you see freshman forward Kristian Doolittle start to understand his role with the team now and going forward.
Jordan Woodard has been the heart and soul for OU this season, but he will depart and will leave that point guard spot wide open. That’s not a coincidence as OU has been recruiting for the 2017 point guard spot to be Young for years.
The Sooners will know their fate in less than two weeks as will those other four schools.
“Yes, been at this for so long, it feels like,” said Young about being happy about seeing recruiting finish line. “It’s been a long journey. Been some ups and down throughout the journey, but it’s been fun.
“I’ve enjoyed it throughout these four years. Been stressful the last couple of weeks and months, but I’m happy it’s coming to an end.”
OU was able to get one hometown hero to stay back home way back when with Blake Griffin. The Sooners and their fans are hoping to strike gold one more time with Young so they can witness the Trae Young Experience at OU for years to come.