Justin Norris | Staff Writer
Freshman phenomenon Trae Young, a point guard for the Oklahoma Sooners, has easily been the most talked about player in college basketball this season. Young is currently averaging 29.1 points per game and 9.3 assists per game, which both lead the NCAA. If Young maintains these gaudy averages, he will become the first player in the history of college basketball to lead the nation in scoring and assists in the same season.
His dazzling game has been one of the most polarizing subjects in recent college basketball memory. His supporters swoon over his seemingly limitless range and electrifying playmaking ability, which has drawn comparisons to two-time MVP and NBA champion Steph Curry. His detractors acknowledge his incredible talents but doubt that he can continue to play at such a high level in the NBA.
NBA legends LeBron James and Oscar Robertson heaped effusive praise upon Young. After the Sooners lost their fourth straight game, and seventh of their past nine games, Robertson called Young to give him some advice. According to ESPN, Young said that Robertson told him “how much he loved my game, how he enjoyed watching me play. He gave me a lot of encouragement.”
Although Young would not elaborate on his conversation with Robertson, he tweeted his gratitude and appreciation for Robertson’s advice.
If that was not enough approval from an all-time great, James weighed in on Young’s future. According to Sam Gannon of KOKH Fox 25 in Oklahoma City, James said that Young “better go pro,” and that the only adjustments he will need to make upon entering the NBA are “how much money he’s [going to] spend” and “how much he’s [going to] save.”
James went on to say that Young “is a very special player” who “can add a lot to any team [in the NBA].” The Cavs’ leader has known Young since he was in the eighth grade and has watched his game evolve to where it is now.
However, critics, such as Stephen A. Smith, predict Young will struggle at the next level. On First Take, Smith said he believes Young will not be as good as advertised in the NBA due to the increased physicality he will face. Smith thinks that because Young “is so tiny from a physical perspective,” it will be much more difficult to post the eye-popping numbers that he does at Oklahoma, and that teams will pick on him defensively because of his slender frame.
Young has cooled down slightly from his white-hot start to the season, where he tallied a record-tying 22 assists in a game against Northwestern State. The 23rd-ranked Sooners are an underwhelming 6-7 in conference play and are sixth in the Big 12 conference.
However, Young has shown the ability to rise to the occasion and play well against quality opponents. He’s averaged 27 points per game and 7 assists per game against ranked foes, and the Sooners are 3-3 in those matchups.
Oklahoma has five games left in the regular season, and their rematch in Kansas is the only game remaining against a ranked squad. If Young continues to play well, the Sooners can build upon their 16-9 record and potentially make some noise in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.