Every year in college basketball, there is one player who stands out over the rest. Two years ago it was Buddy Hield, while last year Josh Hart was argued as the best player, although Caleb Swanigan had a pretty good case as well. The best player doesn’t necessarily mean the person who scores the most, gets the most assists or rebounds the best, but it sometimes ends up that way. This year there is only one choice for the best player in college basketball: Trae Young.
The sooners’ Rise
Young came in to college as the 23rd best recruit in the class according to ESPN. As the fourth best point guard in the class, he was highly sought after, but wasn’t by any means projected to be this good. He chose to go to Oklahoma because he was a fan of the team growing up and rooted on players such as Blake Griffin.
Oklahoma wasn’t highly thought of coming into the season, as they were picked to finish sixth in the Big 12 during the conference’s media day. Most thought that they had lost too many good players from years past, like Hield, Ryan Spangler, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard.
Most Oklahoma fans probably would have taken a bid to the NCAA Tournament, but because of Young, the Sooners have been able to do much better than this.
There were signs of Oklahoma’s offense being explosive after their first two games. They beat Ball State and Nebraska-Omaha while scoring 108 points in each game. Oklahoma lost their third game of the season to a solid Arkansas team, but that was the game that Young proved he could play against good competition. He finished with 28 points and five assists.
The Sooners did not lose another game until conference play started. Their biggest non-conference wins were over Wichita State, Northwestern, Oregon and USC. Against Oregon, Young finished with 43 points and seven assists for an impressive performance against a big conference team. He also had a game against Northwestern State, in which he had 26 points and 22 assists. This tied the NCAA Division I record for assists in a game.
Conference play has provided some stiff competition. Still though, Oklahoma is 4-3 in conference and ranked 12th in the country. They have wins against TCU (twice), Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Their losses have come at the hands of West Virginia, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.
While he continues to score, with a good shooting stroke, and assist at a high rate, there are some concerns about his decision making and turnovers. Any player who has the ball that much will turn over the ball a lot, but most of the problems can be fixed with a little coaching and a change in mindset.
Young leads the country with both 30.5 points and 9.7 assists per game. If he finishes the season well, he can be the only person in NCAA Division I history to lead the country in both statistics. Keeping up that stat line makes him a legend and is a feat that may never be seen again.
The points are impressive enough. Not many people that walk the earth can say they averaged over 30 points per game in a season. Since 1985 only ten players have averaged that many points per game for a season. Young can join the likes of Glenn Robinson and Hersey Hawkins with a strong finish. Before this time frame, Pete Maravich, Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird all averaged at least 30 points per game. This again, puts him among the all-time greats.
He has the points, but he also sets up a lot of teammates for easy scores. Since 1985 only 26 players have averaged more than nine assists per game. If Young can complete the season at that rate, he will be in company with Avery Johnson, Mark Jackson and Jason Kidd.
While there are some players who have done one or the other, there is no other player in the history of college basketball that have officially put up at least 30 points and nine assists per game. Young is in a class all by himself.
From here on out
It won’t be easy, but keeping up the stat line would cement his legacy in college basketball history. He does need to cut down on turnovers and step up his defense, but is still by far the best player on the college hardwood.
Outside of the stats, Young has completely elevated the Sooners’ level of play and made them national contenders. What else can he do to make his time in college better? A deep run in the NCAA Tourament, would certainly do it.
While Young is the best player in college basketball, don’t get too comfortable with him in a Sooners uniform, because the NBA will be calling his name this offseason.