Trae Young era set to begin at Oklahoma
Trae Young has arrived and he is expected to help bring his hometown Sooners back from a rough 11-20 season.
Oklahoma’s freshman point guard was a McDonald’s All- American who averaged 42.6 points per game as a high school senior at Norman North High School.
Coach Lon Kruger said it’s fair to expect a lot from Young, a preseason All-Big 12 honorable mention choice before ever playing for the Sooners.
“He’s made the transition very quickly, and, again, he’s used to a lot of high-level competition through his high school and summertime ball, so he’s doing very well,” Kruger said.
Though Young was primarily a scorer in high school, he has outstanding court awareness and is capable of eye-popping passes. His speed puts defenses in binds, and he is an accurate outside shooter.
“Trae has outstanding skill,” Kruger said. “Anytime you’ve got a player like that, he’s got an opportunity to make players around him better by attracting attention, by driving and attracting help defender and kicking. He’s very fast out of the backcourt, so he’s creating some hopefully easy buckets in transition.”
Young is a critical piece because last year’s point guard, Jordan Woodard, has moved on. Woodard is one of Oklahoma’s all-time leaders in several categories and was a critical part of the team that reached the Final Four two years ago.
Several other key players return to give Oklahoma a strong nucleus. Kameron McGusty, Rashard Odomes, Khristian Doolittle, Christian James and Khadeem Lattin all started at least 14 games last season. Young has gotten a lot of attention, yet he respects what the holdovers have done to prepare for this season.
“He’s smart with regard to the value of doing things as a group and he knows, too, that he needs his teammates to play well, and he’s doing everything he can to help encourage them and motivate them to do everything they can,” Kruger said. “And certainly, his teammates appreciate what he can do.”
Here are a few things to watch from the Sooners this season:
Oklahoma has several early opportunities to find out if it is ready to return to national prominence. The Sooners play Arkansas on Nov. 23 and could play North Carolina on Nov. 24. Oklahoma plays at USC on Dec. 8, at Wichita State on Dec. 16 and hosts Northwestern on Dec. 22.
Doolittle has been suspended from the university for the fall semester for failing to meet academic standards. He started 25 games last season and averaged 9.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season. He is expected to return in December.
Several Oklahoma players have new jersey numbers this season. Christian James has switched from 3 to 0 and Khadeem Lattin has switched from 12 to 3. A number switch is upcoming for Doolittle, too. He wore No. 11 last season, but that is Young’s number this season. Doolittle wore No. 21 during Oklahoma’s overseas trip this summer. He is not listed on the roster because he is not currently enrolled.
Kruger doesn’t tend to stay down for long. He has a career record of 601-381 and has only had consecutive losing seasons once — back in the 1980s at Texas-Rio Grande Valley. His only losing seasons since then came in his first year at Florida in 1990-91, his last year at Florida in 1995-96, the 1998-99 season at Illinois, his first season at Oklahoma in 2011-12 and last season after reaching the Final Four the previous season.
Brady Manek, a freshman from Harrah, Oklahoma, was solid during Oklahoma’s foreign tour, averaging 13.3 points and 5.3 rebounds on 54 percent shooting. He averaged 24.3 points, 11.6 rebounds as a high school senior.
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