Dad: Trae is made for N.Y.

New York Daily News - - NEWS - STE­FAN BONDY

CHICAGO — It’s a cliché, but it’s true: not all ath­letes can han­dle New York. With that be­ing said, no­body in this up­com­ing draft has been pre­pared for the spot­light better than Trae Young.

“That’s what Trae lives for. He lives for that type of stuff. Just think about it: He’s prob­a­bly the most talked about, most pub­li­cized kid in this draft and he’s been through it all,” Young’s fa­ther, Ray, told the Daily News. “Trae’s been scru­ti­nized to the point that he has thick skin. None of that stuff is go­ing to bother him. He was like the dar­ling of col­lege basketball for three months, and then the last month-and-a-half he turned into a bad guy, for some rea­son.

“So for him to be in a mar­ket like New York and un­der­stand that it’s all about win­ning — and if you don’t win, there’ll be some scru­tiny — he’s al­ready been through it.” The Knicks are sched­uled to in­ter­view Young on Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to his fa­ther, and the fam­ily has made no se­cret that New York is a de­sir­able des­ti­na­tion. A match, how­ever, is re­liant on two fluid fac­tors — whether Young is avail­able when the Knicks pick at No. 9, and whether the Knicks would choose a point guard de­spite their glar­ing need for a small for­ward.

They’ve been linked to a pair of small for­wards — Vil­lanova’s Mikal Bridges and Michi­gan State’s Miles Bridges — but also to a point guard — Alabama’s Collin Sex­ton.

None of those play­ers brings the of­fen­sive fire­power or ca­chet of Young, 19, who led the NCAA in scor­ing at 27.4 points per game at Ok­la­homa.

“I know Sex­ton’s fam­ily. I’ve known Collin the last cou­ple of years through AAU, high school basketball. So first of all, if any of those guys get drafted by the Knicks, the Knicks are get­ting two great men,” Ray said. “But the way they’re different — I think Trae does it all.

“I think it re­ally gets over­looked that he led the coun­try in points and as­sists. Not only did he do that as a col­lege player, but he did that as a fresh­man. I just don’t see peo­ple talk­ing about that and the one thing peo­ple don’t re­al­ize about Trae is he loves to pass the ball. He’s only just been able to score be­cause he can shoot and his goal is to lead the NBA in as­sists. With a player like Collin, what he can bring is that he’s a dog — not say­ing Trae isn’t a dog — but Collin is go­ing to go at you, all day, all night. It just de­pends what a team wants. That’s not to say Collin is not an all-around player or an all-around point guard, but Trae’s proven.”

The Knicks have six guards on the ros­ter al­ready — Trey Burke, Frank Nti­lik­ina, Em­manuel Mu­diay, Tim Har­d­away Jr., Court­ney Lee and Ron Baker — and GM Scott Perry said he’d only draft an­other if it trans­lates to a gi­ant up­grade.

“It would only make sense if you feel that guard is far and away better than what you have on the ros­ter,” Perry said. “And we haven’t been able to make that de­ter­mi­na­tion yet.”

Young could cer­tainly fit into that cat­e­gory with a skillset of­ten com­pared to Steph Curry’s. As fur­ther ev­i­dence that his son is a fit in New York, Ray Young noted that an­other point guard — Mem­phis’ Mike Con­ley — en­joyed a ca­reer year un­der David Fiz­dale.

“With Mike, he kind of let him run the show,” Ray said. “Of course, Mike’s a vet­eran, he’s been around for a long time, so it’s a little bit different for him. But I know a lot about Coach Fiz­dale. I think the big­gest thing with him is play­ers love him, he’s a player’s coach.”

While draft­ing Young would ap­pear a slight to New York’s lot­tery pick last year, Nti­lik­ina, a West­ern Con­fer­ence scout told The News they’d be a strong match in the back­court.

“It gives them a ball-dom­i­nant point guard which is prob­a­bly the best for (Nti­lik­ina) — and Frank could al­ways de­fend the better guard on the other team. So I could see that,” the scout said. “I could see his game re­ally work­ing (with the Knicks). Ob­vi­ously you don’t want to take shots from Kristaps (Porzingis), but you put those two in pick-and-roll, that’s a pretty dy­namic thing.

“And if he learns to play off the ball where you can do stuff with Kristaps in the mid-post where he could do his thing and he spreads the floor with his shoot­ing abil­ity, then you have some­thing pretty good.”

The crit­i­cism of Young cen­ters on two things: His de­fense was sub­par or some­times non-ex­is­tent at Ok­la­homa, and his over­all game suf­fered once the op­po­si­tion ad­justed. The fall in the sec­ond-half of the sea­son — both for him­self and the Soon­ers — was dra­matic. But as his fa­ther in­di­cated, Young’s role was highly loaded at Ok­la­homa — mean­ing he was tasked with car­ry­ing the en­tire of­fense and, as a re­sult, some­times took off plays at the other end. “That’s not to blame any­thing on Ok­la­homa but he was asked to do other things (other than de­fense),” said Ray, a for­mer star at Texas Tech who groomed his son for the NBA. “As a dad I was dis­ap­pointed when he didn’t play as much de­fense as he should have but I know what my son’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties are and I know over time he’s go­ing to guard and do what he needs to do. Be­cause he com­petes.”

Re­gard­less of Young’s per­ceived de­fi­cien­cies, he was, with­out ques­tion, the most elec­tric and most pop­u­lar player in the NCAA last sea­son. In other words, he’s a player fit for the bright­est lights.

“That would be some­thing spe­cial to be in that mar­ket,” Ray said. “And I’ll tell you, the way he plays — as much scru­tiny as he took, he sold out are­nas all over the coun­try. Peo­ple wanted to watch him an hour be­fore the game just warm up and shoot. And I’m not nec­es­sar­ily big on the Steph Curry com­par­isons but it is what it is — es­pe­cially with the fol­low­ing and how peo­ple look at my son.”


Trae Young took NCAA by storm as a fresh­man at Ok­la­homa, and his fa­ther be­lieves he can thrive in New York City spot­light if Knicks can pick him at No. 9 over­all.

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