For as much drama, or at least speculation, that went into the recruitment of Norman (Okla.) North point guard Trae Young, his actual commitment announcement was devoid of drama or any last-minute wonderings of where he was going to go.
A simple declaration of committing to the University of Oklahoma, followed by a Boomer Sooner, and the crowd at Norman North High went into a frenzy for the five-star prospect ranked No. 21 in the Scout 100.
So Thursday afternoon’s decision went as smooth as possible, but getting there? It took work. Days, weeks, months and years of work by OU coaches Lon Kruger and Chris Crutchfield to guarantee it would land its highest-ranked player in the Kruger era in Norman.
“The deciding factor? This is just home,” Young said. “It’s always been home to me … this recruiting process has been very long and very tough. I put my trust into all of these coaches. This has just been home.”
But home could be anywhere you need it to be when it comes to college. When you attend school, it becomes your second home.
And Young had some incredible options for a second home, eventually picking OU over Kansas and Oklahoma State although he had offers from coast-to-coast.
There has been a lot of talk of Young’s father, Ray Young, not being the most vocal supporter of the Sooners. Ray tried to clear the air of that notion Thursday.
“Yea, I was never worried,” said Ray Young about Kruger’s ability to develop star players. “But when you have Roy Williams, Coach K and the blue bloods of college basketball, you have to take it seriously.
“It’s my job as the father to gather the info for my son and lay it all out on the table and say what is your decision?”
What would be the decision? Ray Young told Sooners Illustrated that if his son had signed during the early period in November, he would be a part of Big Blue Nation and headed to Kentucky.
But Trae Young wasn’t ready. He made all five of his official visits by the end of October and had the option to sign early. Wasn’t meant to be.
Questions couldn’t be answered in November. What would Brad Underwood do as the first-year man at Oklahoma State? What would Life after Buddy Hield be like at OU?
And then there was Young’s senior season. Now heading into the final month of an incredible career at Norman North, it’s clear he has been able to juggle the balancing act.
He’s averaging more than 43 points per game. He scored a career-high 62 points in last week’s 103-67 victory. And that was a sign to Ray Young that his son was ready to make the call.
“I think I finally knew once and for all about a week ago,” Ray Young said. “There were days where he would say I want to go to OU. Then days he would say I want to go to Kansas. Other days where he would say I want to go to Kentucky.
“Once he started playing a lot smoother at Norman North and didn’t have any outside stress during the last two or three games, things have been really good. He’s looked really comfortable. He’s looked ready.”
Ready to surprise a lot of people. When you think about conventional wisdom of OU vs. Kansas in basketball, you pick the Jayhawks. When you look at this year with OU only at nine wins and KU a top three team in the country, you assume Bill Self is going to get the win.
You would have assumed wrong. The comfort level for Young with Kruger and the rest of the OU staff simply couldn’t be matched by anybody. Not Underwood. Not Self. Nothing could duplicate that bond with Kruger, that feeling of home.
“Coach Kruger, I love his excitement,” Trae Young said. “It brings out the 25-year-old in him. He’s passionate for the game. He loves the game. I can’t wait to continue to work with him. He’s been with me since the beginning of all this. I can’t wait to start working with him.”
Kruger has been there since the beginning, and Trae Young has been there even before that point. Before Kruger. Young remembers being a ball boy at OU during the Jeff Capel days. He remembers growing up around OU basketball.
He remembers watching Blake Griffin be a hometown hero and now knows he can be that guy, too, including being a McDonald’s All-American like Griffin was.
But before he could be a Sooner, Young had to man-up and make those calls. He had to show the maturity of calling Self and Underwood and letting them know he wasn’t headed to Lawrence or Stillwater.
Calling the winning coach? Among the easiest things to do. Doing the opposite? Few things are more difficult than doing that.
“Oh, it's the toughest phone calls I've ever had to take to this point,” Trae Young said. “I've built great relationships with them. Coach Self has been recruiting me since just as long as Coach Kruger has and I've built a great relationship with him.
“It was tough, but I'm at peace with my decision. I prayed a lot about it and I'm happy to be a Sooner.”
And Sooner Nation is thrilled to have Young in the family.
(Sooners Illustrated will be on hand to watch Young’s first game as an OU commitment Friday evening vs. rival Norman)