(Photo Credit: Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman)
The five star product from Norman (Norman North HS) is many things to Kruger and the Sooners, but being the [only] man to push Oklahoma over the hump is not realistic– at this moment.
Trae is averaging 44-7-7 (via prep circuit) this year for the Timberwolves with a little help from his teammates that include the Super Stoops Bros., and Young shoots the 3-ball at a relatively high clip. He’s the highest recruited guard to commit to Oklahoma since Willie Warren flamed out after a weird series of events during the Capel years, which led to the Kruger staff.
So, let’s temper expectations; Young will be the starting point guard from the first day, and he will probably average somewhere along the lines of 16-4-3. Where does that leave the rest of the team?
-Oklahoma will need to find a backup point guard to facilitate the offense (for as little time as they’re on the floor) while Trae sits– that’s on Darrion Strong-Moore (Jr.) or Jordan Shepherd (Fr.). My guess would be that Shepherd holds together the second unit, but he certainly needs to work on his handles and basketball maturity.
-The Shooting Guard position is the easiest to forecast on next year’s squad: Kam McGusty (Fr.) gets buckets. The 6’5 freshman has seen his role increase and has responded in quite a positive way. He’s shooting 44%, 35% from 3– compare that to Buddy Hield’s 38%, 24% from 3 during his Frosh season. The duo of McGusty and Young will be enough fire power to give anybody fits next year. Christian James (So.) has been a disappointment this year.
-The Small Forward position is manned by Rashard Odomes (So.), who has really been coming on late during the year. He has a major lack of long ball skills, but is a physical presence with great skills around the basket. His reserve is Dante Buford (So.), a 3/stretch-4 guy who is a really nice for the 2nd unit when he wakes up on time to go to class or practice.
-The Bigs get a little more confusing and interchangeable from here– Kristian Doolittle (Fr.) is averaging 8 & 6 during his first campaign and that gives more hope for Kruger and the Youth Movement in Norman. Then Khadeem Lattin (Jr.), averaging 7 & 8, probably the second biggest disappointment after not making much of a leap after last season’s Final Four run. At times, many people scream for Jamuni McNeace (So.) to be on the floor in place of Lattin because he offers a physical presence in the paint and his [slowly but surely] developing post presence. Somebody that Oklahoma desperately needs to add more to his game is Matt Freeman from NZ. After a few games into the schedule, it became very apparent to opponents that he likes to camp out near the 3-point line, therefore eviscerating his effectiveness to the game. (Matt, learn post moves, you’re not 6’3. However, nice beard)
So, does this addition of Trae Young “push Oklahoma over the top” into the upper echelon of the NCAA Tourney next year like some have suggested? I don’t think so. That’s asking too much of one guy. But, if you’ve noticed, most of the men that Kruger has coming back are either Freshmen or Sophomores, and that bodes well for the success of the team. The Sooners are a squad of guys that hold the lead till the end of the game, but somehow find themselves on the losing end of the scoreboard. It’s no secret that they need maturity, leadership, and a star player to step up when nobody knows where to pass the ball. The youth of Oklahoma should pay dividends to them next year, but it won’t be in the form of an Elite-8 or Sweet-16 team, so we should temper the expectations in Norman.
Is Trae Young the answer for Kruger? It depends on what you mean. If it’s immediate, heightened success, no. Hell no. If you mean sustained success and a jolt back into the tournament, probably so.