THE NEW FACE
Young embracing leadership role for the Sooners
NORMAN — The Trae Young era is here.
The most-hyped freshman to arrive at Oklahoma for years debuts Sunday when the Sooners take on Omaha at 2 p.m. at Lloyd Noble Center. Why is Young ready for this moment?
“Really just my confidence,” Young said. “My confidence level is extremely high. I feel like I can play with whoever is on the court and dominate. That’s just my mindset. I feel like that carries me a long way.”
Young is the highestranked recruit the Sooners have signed since Tiny Gallon in 2009. But Gallon was from out of state.
Young grew up in Norman, playing just down the road from the home of the Sooners, even though
his father played instead for Texas Tech.
He’s not only expected to be the first Norman native to start for the Sooners since Steve Ayers 50 years ago, but he’s expected to be the team leader from day one.
“Trae is working hard in preparation to take care of those expectations,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “He knows that it’s a different level of competition in the Big 12 and nonconference play but he knows it’s important now instead of waiting to check it out first. He’s done a good job in preparation.”
Young knew when he committed to the Sooners — choosing to stay home over offers from Kansas and Kentucky among others — what was expected of him right off the bat.
That confidence, he said, has made him ready to take on the role.
Young said the environment he grew up in has prepared him for this moment.
“It was just me growing up in the Young household,” he said. “Everybody in my family, we’re all confident. We all work extremely hard at what we do. That’s just how we were all built.”
Young made his name in high school by being a long-range shooter, regularly pulling up from well beyond the 3-point line.
But for the Sooners, he’ll be asked to be a much more balanced point guard, distributing the ball to teammates such as Kameron McGusty, Rashard Odomes and Christian James among others.
“He’s a great passer,” Sooners freshman Brady Manek said. “People don’t know that about him but he’s a great passer. He’s always been able to find me.”
One of the biggest areas of struggle last year for the Sooners was at point guard, where Jordan Woodard was in and out of the lineup and then freshman Jordan Shepherd and junior-college transfer Darrion StrongMoore had to carry the load there.
“As a team, you want your point guard to be able to have a voice and I feel like that’s something we lacked last year — a voice,” McGusty said. “That’s what Trae does. He brings the voice and he brings the energy and enthusiasm every day to practice and that’s going to carry over to the games.”
Embracing the voice is also something that Young is ready for.
“I don’t label myself as a freshman,” he said. “That’s just what’s on a piece of paper, to be honest.
“You’re either born a leader or you’re not.”
The Trae Young era for Oklahoma basketball begins in earnest on Sunday when the Sooners take on Omaha. Young, pictured here talking to young fans at the OU alumni game in August, is the most-hyped freshman to arrive at Oklahoma in several years.
Trae Young makes his regular-season debut as Oklahoma’s point guard Sunday when the Sooners take on Omaha.