Oklahoma freshman Trae Young, who leads the country in scoring (30.3 points per game) and assists (9.6), has dazzled college basketball fans all season. In fact, he has drawn comparisons to Steph Curry and appears to have modeled his game after two-time NBA MVP.
That’s a nice comparison, but is it premature?
“I don’t think it is,” ESPN broadcaster Tom Crean said on Reiter Than You. “And I’m usually one of those from the coaching side to be much more conservative on those same things. With him, especially after (Tuesday) with the way that he played, he literally controlled the game as a young 19-year-old. He didn’t really look to take shots in the first half – and it was legit. It wasn’t like he was wide open, but he wasn’t even looking when he had the ball. He was always looking (to pass).”
Young scored 26 points on just nine shots in leading No. 12 Oklahoma (15-4) to an 85-80 win over No. 5 Kansas (16-4). He also had nine assists, six of which came in the first half.
“They’re the leading three-point-shooting defensive team in the Big 12, Bill (Self is) in the Hall of Fame for a lot of reasons, and being a great defensive team is one of them,” Crean said of Kansas. “But he was not looking at the rim other than when he was driving to the basket. He was constantly looking for his teammates – and when you can control the game that way at that age in a game like that, there’s something even more special about you than what we probably knew going into the game. But he’s got the skill set.”
He also has three 40-point games on the season and is shooting 40.0 percent from behind the arc.
Very Curry-like, indeed.
“I’ve always hated comparisons because after you coach Dwyane Wade, you get a lot of people who want to make those comparisons to him – and I didn’t ever think that was fair to the kid being compared or to Dwyane,” Crean said. “So to me, there’s been too many current comparisons in the past. This is one, though, that’s – in my mind – absolutely legit. There’s no question this kid is going to continue to get better and better because he’s so young, but also because he’s already got a really impressive skill set when it comes to his athleticism. He’s fast, he’s quick, he’s quick-twitch, his vision is incredible, and he’s going to get bigger and stronger and better. No question about it.”
Kentucky (15-5), meanwhile, is unranked for the first time since 2014. Is it time for Wildcats fans to worry?
“Does (John Calipari) have one of the first picks of the draft?” Crean asked. “Probably not, but it’s not the first time he’s been down the road where you got to get guys to gel together – and they still go through that period. When you get a young team, they’re overwhelmed. They’re overwhelmed by how hard it is, they’re overwhelmed by the intensity of it, they’re overwhelmed by what they see – and what you’re doing is coaching and teaching them. The hardest thing for any player to come in and understand is they’ve got to be able to play without the ball.”
Victor Oladipo, one of Crean’s former players at Indiana, was – and is – a master at that, which is probably why he’s had success in the NBA.
“He already had the skill of moving without the ball before he became good with it,” Crean said. “But most guys come in and they just think about the ball, and John’s guys are no different. He does a great job of suppressing their egos, eventually getting them galvanized and maturing through it, and right now what I see is he’s got a stubborn team. It’s not the first time he’s had a stubborn team. He’s still got guys that will play, that will revert back to habits, that will take a few bad shots, they will not be as strong with the ball, they will not get down and get that stop together – realizing that that group of guys together is so much better than they are if it’s just one or two guys going at it.
“So I would say this is one of his tougher tasks in recent memory,” Crean continued, “but I would never bet against him getting that team to gel and understand because they are talented, he’s an excellent coach, and they have had success. I think it will bode well for them moving forward.”