Writer: Caleb Akpan
Every once in awhile a player takes over the basketball world. Sometimes that player does so in high school, like when Seventh Woods’ freshman mixtape went viral in 2013, currently sitting at 15 million views, and based on unofficial research, the most viewed high school mixtape of all-time. Sometimes it’s in the pros, like when Stephen Curry became must-see TV at the start of the Warriors dominance of the NBA, hitting three after three as Golden State piled on win after win. The college game seems to be the toughest place for a player to go viral, with the NCAA having an issue with highlights being online for some years, aggressive defenses being run by most of the top teams in the nation, and stacked teams of top recruits, but every now and then, a player comes along from a big name school and dominates. That’s exactly the case with Oklahoma’s Trae Young, who currently leads Division I basketball in points (28.5) and assists (10.2) with dazzling performances night after night. Many are already comparing Young to Stephen Curry, and if he keeps playing like this, he deserves that and possibly even more.
Young’s performances aren’t just dominant, they are on historic levels rarely or never seen in NCAA Division I before, especially by a freshman. On Tuesday, Young put up 26 points and 22 assists against Northwestern State, becoming the first player in two decades to have a 20/20 game. The 22 assists also tied an NCAA record, which Young now shares with three other players……all seniors when they achieved the feat. Young is also only two points off of the freshman record for scoring average in a game, and if keeps up at his current pace (Young had 25 at the half on Friday), he could very well catch the 30.2 average set by Chris Jackson (a.k.a Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf). It’s also possible that Young could be the first player to lead Division I in scoring and assists in a season, though assists stats were not recorded from 1953-1983, a time where NBA legend and all-time passer Oscar Robertson led Division I in scoring for three straight seasons.
Young has drawn comparisons to one two-time MVP and NBA superstar Stephen Curry early in his college career, and analysts’ views seem valid the way Young can shoot the ball. His shot looks effortless, going up from pretty much anywhere within half court ala Steph, and defenders have little they can do to change Young’s effectiveness. However, we’re comparing him to NBA Stephen Curry and there’s a serious case for Young already being better than Curry was his freshman year in college. For comparison, Curry averaged 21.5 points and just 2.5 assists per game in his freshman year playing for Davidson in the Southern conference, playing weaker competition then Young was in the Big 12, while not nearly putting up as impressive of a statline. By all accounts, Young is a better player than Curry was as at the same age, though his true test will definitely come as it did for Curry, as he likely heads to the NBA following this season.
Somehow, despite all of the amazing performances, Young isn’t being considered for the top pick in the draft by most critics. Many have chosen Euroleague star Luka Doncic, Duke forward Marvin Bagley, and Arizona center DeAndre Ayton over Young to this point. At just 6’2 (maybe) and 180 lbs., Young is considered undersized by most draft analysts and he doesn’t possess a freakish amount of athleticism to make up for that. Neither did Isaiah Thomas though, and we all know what happened when people slept on him. Luckily, Young shouldn’t have that trouble, he’s definitely solidifying himself as a lottery pick and wherever he goes will be lucky to have him. He’s a college legend already and he has the potential to do the same in the NBA if everything works out.