Oklahoma freshman Trae Young revels in role of hometown hero

Published 7:59 am Monday, March 5, 2018

NORMAN, Okla. — Trae Young heard the familiar shouts as he tried to focus during his pregame warmup routine.

About a half hour before Oklahoma tipped off its comeback win over Kansas in late January, a small group of children gathered near the court and yelled his name, hoping the hometown hero would notice.

The dynamic freshman did more than just hear. He stopped his routine and walked over to pose for photos and shake hands with the kids before going back to shooting.

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“I remember me being that kid growing up,” said Young , who was a ball boy for the Sooners. “Me being the kid that grew up going to games and being a ball boy and wanting a high five from Blake Griffin or the other players. I don’t forget where I came from, so I like doing it because those kids look up to me like I used to look up to other people.”

Young was born in Lubbock, Texas, but he grew up in Norman, Oklahoma as a Sooners fan. He spent his childhood dreaming of being like Griffin, yet seemingly in the blink of an eye, he might already have played his last game at the Lloyd Noble Center. He scored 15 points in Oklahoma’s regular-season finale, an 81-60 win over Iowa State on Friday night. He’s projected to be a first-round NBA draft pick if he leaves school, though the slender 6-foot-2 guard hasn’t made a decision about his future.

“It’s crazy,” he said Thursday. “It all went by so fast.”

Kentucky and Kansas were in the running to sign Young, but he chose to stay in Norman with hopes of bringing his beloved Sooners back to glory after a down year. He has exceeded expectations and posted one of the best freshman seasons in NCAA history, leading the nation with averages of 27.5 points and 8.9 assists per game. But the Sooners also suffered through a six-game losing streak, and Young has at times been criticized for shooting too much and committing too many turnovers. The Sooners have gone from a No. 4 ranking to an unranked team fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Through the ups and downs, Young continues to cherish all that has come with going through it in Norman. He’s enjoyed taking those who have invested in him over the years along for the ride.