The five-year journey is complete. Five-star point guard Trae Young is an Oklahoma Sooner. It’s time for the next chapter for the former Norman North standout.
Young, ranked No. 21 in the Scout 100, signed with the Sooners last week to culminate a process with OU head coach Lon Kruger since Young was in eighth grade.
“It means a lot. It's a huge signing given that he's a local guy and I think it says a lot about Trae and his family that they wanted to be here,” Kruger said. “They want to have an impact on their community, on the university, on the state of Oklahoma.
“He also knows our guys really well. That speaks well to our guys because he's been around them the last couple of years and wanted to join them in getting this program back where it belongs.”
Back where it belongs has been a point of emphasis for OU fans ever since Young committed to OU on Feb. 16. A year removed from a Final Four appearance, Sooner fans stomached a rebuilding year in 2016-17. The theory being take our lumps now to reap the rewards later.
That was going to be with a roster that didn’t include Young, a two-time Gatorade Oklahoma Player of the Year. The ninth McDonald’s All-American in state history. One of only 24 seniors to play in the Jordan Brand Classic last weekend in Brooklyn.
With Young? It’s another story. Certainly 11-20 won’t be tolerated, but you get the feeling anything less than a 20-win season would be frowned upon.
Young was the ultimate scorer at Norman North. He averaged 42.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game as a senior. He won’t do that at OU, but he won’t have to do that.
Young has shown during his time with MOKAN Elite how he can diversify his game to whatever is being asked of him at the time. Kruger isn’t worried about Young being able to find a home at OU.
“We won't change our interest in attacking and the pace of play and pushing the ball,” Kruger said. “Trae adds to that because he can really push the ball out of backcourt. And obviously he scored a lot of points in his high school career. But he's about winning.
“He's about making teammates better, putting them in position, a great feel for the game, shoots it well certainly, but great imagination as a passer, very creative and terrific skills with the ball.”
As the clock struck zero and North Carolina won the national championship two weeks ago, polls were already coming out with the Sooners in the preseason top 25, as being earmarked for a return to the NCAA tournament after missing it for the first time in five seasons.
It's not just Young, but the bulk of that expectation is that Young is going to rejuvenate the program. He’ll open the floor more for easier shots for guys like Kameron McGusty and Rashard Odomes. He has a passer’s mentality that will make sure Khadeem Lattin and Jamuni McNeace get touches in the post.
Is it overstating things to say OU will go as far as Young takes them? Maybe, but that’s the weight of expectations when you’re the hometown hero, the five-star prospect expected to turn things around right now.
He’s the highest-ranked signee in Kruger’s tenure at Norman. It’s going to be a different ballgame in the upcoming season. But everybody is OK with that. Everybody is embracing that.
“They are healthy expectations,” Kruger said. “Again, he’ll worry about what he can control and that will be getting into the gym and investing the time that he needs to with his teammates. That’s what we all can do. Worry about what we can control. That’s the preparation part of it. And Trae’s big on investment and big on preparation. He’ll do fine.”