Trae Young matched a Big 12 record with 48 points against Oklahoma State on Saturday, and crazy as it sounds, he’s found himself in a bit of a slump.
That’s how high the Oklahoma freshman guard has set the bar this season.
The Sooners play host to Kansas on Tuesday in a delicious Big 12 best player vs. best team showdown, and Young will look to improve on a week in which he averaged 34 points and seven assists.
But because of some other numbers by Young, Oklahoma is coming off a two-loss week. His 39 field-goal attempts against the Cowboys replaced Missouri’s Clarence Gilbert (36 in 2001) as the most taken by a Big 12 player in a game.
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And Young’s 12 turnovers against Kansas State earlier in the week were most by a major-college player in a game since 1999.
Shot volume and turnovers had been part of the Young package since arriving on campus from nearby Norman North High. He continues to lead the nation in scoring (30.5 points per game) and assists (9.7) and bids to become the first player since 1952 to top major colleges in both categories. If those numbers hold, they would be Big 12 records.
Last week took an edge off a season that had been breathtaking. Young was college basketball’s shining star, whose stroke and shoot-deep-or-get-to-the-rim game resembled Steph Curry’s. He was a no-doubter to join Buddy Hield as the program’s second national player of the year in three seasons.
Last week moved Young’s trajectory sideways, but only because he had been playing at such an advanced level, a development that did not surprise those who knew his game best before it was unveiled nationally. A game that was helped shaped at, of all places, Avila University in Kansas City.
That’s where MoKan, the Kansas City-based AAU team, practiced for national tournaments when Young joined as a 16-year-old while playing on a 17-under team.
The coach, Rodney Perry, was Avila’s coach at the time. Now an Oral Roberts assistant, Perry guided MoKan to the prestigious 2016 Nike Peach Jam championship. Young and Michael Porter Jr., the Missouri freshman who has missed all but 2 minutes of action this season after undergoing back surgery, were chosen co-MVPs of the event.
“When he arrived, he was very talented but he still had a lot to learn about playing with other good players and making the team better,” Perry said. “But one of the things I loved about him was he was a quick learner and always wanted to get better.”
In an earlier tournament, Perry recalled a two-game set in which Young went six of 30 from the floor and had six assists. The team lost both.
Perry showed him some individual numbers. The team was undefeated when Young recorded at least seven assists, a statistic that remained true at Oklahoma, until Saturday.
Young had another advantage in his growth. Like Curry, Young’s father was a terrific player. Rayford Young didn’t have a long NBA career like Dell Curry, but he was a two-time second-team All-Big 12 guard at Texas Tech who led the Red Raiders to the program’s first victory over Kansas in 1999.
Rayford Young scored 41 points, including 32 in the final 9 minutes, and made all 18 free throws in Lubbock that day. When the Youngs made a recruiting visit to Kansas, Bill Self showed them tape of that game.
Trae Young had Kansas and Texas Tech on his list of finalists, along with Kentucky and Oklahoma. The Jayhawks were eliminated when Devonté Graham decided to return for his senior season. The Sooners had the home advantage, and without a returning playmaker coach Lon Kruger could offer operating the offense through Young.
“From the time Rodney and I talked after his first practice I knew he’d be special,” said MoKan founder Matt Suther. “But I’d be lying if I foresaw him averaging 30 points as a freshman.”
Young became a national revelation from the outset. He recorded double doubles in his first two games, notched 43 against Oregon in his fifth, and dished out 22 assists in another contest.
But last week was the first time Oklahoma and Young wobbled. Young got flustered in one game and tried to do too much in another — and raised his scoring average in the process.
Look for more Sooners to be involved against the Jayhawks, but all eyes will be on Young, college basketball’s most dynamic player.
Top Big 12 scoring days
Trae Young, Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, 2018
Melvin Ejim, Iowa State vs. TCU, 2014
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma at Kansas, 2016
L 109-106, 3ot
Denis Clemente, Kansas State at Texas, 2009
W 85-81 ot
Michael Beasley, Kansas State at Baylor, 2008