Zagoria: Trae Young could be Oklahoma’s best recruit since Blake Griffin

Photo courtesy of USA Basketball

Trae Young, the 6-foot-2 point guard from Norman North (OK) High School, committed to Oklahoma on Thursday and could be the Sooners’ most significant recruit since Blake Griffin played there a decade ago.

A McDonald’s All-American, Young chose his home-state Sooners over Kansas and Oklahoma State.

“He would be a landmark recruit,” said longtime New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski. “I know that they’ve had some great players, including Buddy Hield, but he probably would be their biggest-name recruit since Blake Griffin.

“I’m not saying he’s going to have the same impact because he’s not 6-9, 230 and he’s not going to be the dominating interior presence that Blake Griffin was and is even in the NBA. But if they were to get him over Kansas, that’s a significant recruit. He would mean more to Oklahoma’s program than it would to Kansas’ program.”

Young is a high-scoring lead guard who, along with incoming Washington freshman forward Michael Porter Jr., led the MoKan Elite AAU program to the prestigious Nike Peach Jam championship last July. Ranked No. 14  in the ESPN 100, he is averaging 43 points, five rebounds and five assists a game for Norman North.

“[Coach Lon Kruger] said he’d turn over the keys to the program to me not when the season started but on June 1,” Young told USA Today before the commitment. “I liked that.”

Young joins Brady Manek, a 6-9 small forward from Harrah (OK) High, and Hannes Pöllä, a 6-11 center from Helsinki Basketball Academy, in Oklahoma’s 2017 recruiting class.

Rodney Perry, who coached Young with MoKan Elite and is now an assistant at Oral Roberts University, said Oklahoma is getting a winner who can revitalize their program. The Sooners are currently 9-16 overall, 3-10 in the Big 12.

“He’s going to bring a winner, first of all,” Perry said. “A highly competitive player, a player that is going to compete on every single possession. His skillset is one I like to compare to Steph Curry. In high school basketball, he’s a point guard who can really shoot it with extended range, who can pass with either hand and just has the drive that you’re not going to stop me, that mentality.”

Said Konchalski: “Of the lead guards in the Class of 2017, he is obviously the surest shot. He has inter-galactic range and you can’t give him an inch. He can really, really shoot the ball. He’s gotta get stronger and at the next level. His game will be re-oriented somewhat to become a little more of a distributor. But he might be the best shooter in the class, and I’ll tell you what, Michael Porter Jr.’s right there, too.”

By staying home to play for Kruger at Oklahoma, Young looks like the Sooners’ most significant recruit in a decade.

“I think it energizes the Sooner program, knowing that they have a point guard of the future to go with their other young guys and it will solidify the point guard position also, knowing that he can come in and be able to make those guys even better than they are right now,” Perry said.

Meantime, uncommitted point guard Trevon Duval of Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy remains available and will still consider Kansas along with Duke, Arizona, Seton Hall and Baylor. He has taken officials to Kansas and Duke and said recently that Kansas would be off the table if Young chose the Jayhawks.

Kansas will lose Frank Mason to graduation and could lose Devonte’ Graham to the NBA Draft. Duke is also in need of a point guard after missing out on Quade Green (Kentucky) and Matt Coleman (Texas). Arizona, Seton Hall and Baylor also would love to add the 6-3 Duval.

While Duval is a projected one-and-done wherever he goes, Young similarly dreams of playing in the NBA.

“Yeah, without a question,” Perry said. “That’s what drives him every single day to get better, is the fact that he has one goal and that’s to get to the NBA. And so he’s going to do whatever it takes to be able to get there.”

Adam Zagoria is a basketball insider who has run ZAGSBLOG.com since 2006. He is a college basketball contributor for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the co-host of The Four Quarters Podcast via VSporto.com, which is available via iTunes. Zagoria is also a contributor to The New York Times. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.

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