Oklahoma basketball: Trae Young credits stellar freshman season to film study
NORMAN, Okla. — All those film sessions with the coach are paying off for super freshman Trae Young.
Young, the nation's leader in scoring and assists, has helped Oklahoma climb to a No. 12 ranking heading into Saturday's game at Texas. The 6-foot-2 point guard has thrived in coach Lon Kruger's offense. The Sooners are leading the nation in scoring at 90.7 points a game.
Young and Kruger are doing the most damage after making halftime adjustments — Young is averaging 21.3 points on 52.9 percent shooting during the second half of league games.
Kruger has given Young freedom in the offense but reins him in when necessary. Young has been a willing student and is averaging 30.3 points and 9.5 assists.
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"It's a very close relationship," Young said. "We watch film all the time. Even after good games, we watch film and we pick out just the bad parts in the game and stuff I can get better at because I'm not at my peak yet. I feel like I can always get better. I'm always trying to improve, so he's definitely helped me improve in that area."
Young has saved his best for thrillers at home. He scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half in a 75-65 win over Texas Tech on Jan. 9. He had 24 points in the second half against TCU and five more in overtime in a 43-point outburst that helped Oklahoma beat the Horned Frogs 102-97 on Jan. 13. He had 18 of his 26 after the break in an 85-80 win over Kansas on Jan. 23. On Tuesday, he scored 31 of his 44 points in the second half to help the Sooners top Baylor 98-96.
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"If you watch NBA games, you'll see James Harden or even (Russell) Westbrook — I'll throw Westbrook out there," Young said. "He'll have 10 assists in the first half and only eight points but then end up with 30 and 14 because he'll get everybody involved, and whenever everybody's involved, you can't help (defensively). Then, in the second half, you're worried about everybody else, and then that will be more driving lanes for you to score."
Young said things have gone as he envisioned when he chose his hometown Sooners over Kentucky and Kansas. The Sooners trail Kansas by a game in the Big 12 race.
"I felt like the way coach Kruger coached — his offense really fit my game and stuff like that," he said. "That was a really big key reason why I came here. Everything he told me is happening, so I can't thank him enough."
Even with all Kruger expected from the McDonald's All-American, Young exceeded his expectations out of the blocks.
"No one could have projected him doing what he did the first 10 to 12 games," he said. "That was off-the-charts great."
.@TheTraeYoung is on the cover of February's SLAM Magazine.— Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_MBBall) January 31, 2018
First #Sooner to grace the cover while at OU
Only the third cover in the last 27 issues to feature a college player pic.twitter.com/r5pxmORlFf
Young made his first major adjustment after a loss to Oklahoma State, when he scored 48 points on 14-for-39 shooting in a loss. He listened to those who questioned if he shot too much or was undisciplined. And he listened to his coach, who said he wanted him to remain aggressive but be smarter.
Young learned quickly. Against Kansas, he scored 26 points and took only nine shots. Against Baylor, his 44 points came on just 20 shots.
"That's the challenge," Kruger said. "Keep him aggressive, keep him confident, and yet keep the ball moving, make the right basketball play. From the start, we've talked about focus on getting better every day, make the right basketball play, be about others, be about teammates, be about community, and he's done a great job in all of those areas."