Oklahoma’s junior guard Christian James just smiled and shrugged.
He was asked what goes through his mind when freshman teammate Trae Young is in one of his shooting zones.
“Give him the ball and let him do what he do,” James said after the No. 6 Sooners beat No. 24 TCU in overtime on Saturday. “It’s crazy. Sometimes you’re wondering is he a human.”
It’s tough to guard me whenever my teammates are knocking down shots and making plays.
Oklahoma guard Trae Young
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Young, age 19 and fast becoming the most famous player in college basketball, has brought a Steph Curry-level excitement to the NCAA. Like Curry, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound guard doesn’t cut the most intimidating figure on first glance.
But on the floor, in the middle of the action, he can take over a game like few players have done so quickly in their college career. On Saturday, he scored 16 consecutive points for the Sooners until he dished off the assist to James for the go-ahead 3-pointer with 6 seconds remaining. TCU scored to push it to overtime but Young scored five points in OT to secure the Sooners’ win. He scored 29 of his career-high 43 points after halftime.
Young and the Sooners play at Kansas State at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
So far, Young says, the rise in fame hasn’t changed much. But, he conceded, school has been out on the Oklahoma campus since mid-December. Students returned to Norman, Okla., this week. In the past month, his national profile has grown as fast as he can pull up for a 35-foot 3-pointer.
“No, my teammates are the same as they were this summer,” he said. “I’m just having fun. This is what you dream of when you’re a kid, playing college basketball at a high level and winning. This is fun. I enjoy it. I’ll see how it’s like on campus. My teammates are my brothers.”
The problem for opponents, however, is there seems to be no guarding Young, who leads the nation in points (30.1) and assists (10.0). The next closest Power 5 player in scoring is Duke’s Marvin Bagley III at 22 points a game. Oh, and Young also had a game-high 11 rebounds on Saturday.
30.1 Points per game for Oklahoma freshman Trae Young, which leads the nation. He also leads the country with 10 assists per game.
“It’s hard not to get into a one-on-one with Trae because he comes so fast and has so much freedom, but you have to make sure you play disciplined and play for your team,” said TCU guard Jaylen Fisher, who had a career-high 22 points.
TCU tried to stick with Young in the first meeting on Dec. 30 and he burned them for 39 points. The Horned Frogs relied more on a team concept on Saturday and he scored 43, including making 10 of 19 3-pointers. He’s got a bull’s-eye on his back but he’s the one still nailing the target.
“He handled it great,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “I say that based on his play. It’s very hard for a guy to be consistently at that high level through 15 ballgames. Normally you get that big drop-off here or there and that hasn’t happened with him. I think that’s great focus and it speaks to his competitiveness, it speaks to the fact that the team is getting better.”
And when Young is in a shooting zone, few teams can slow down the Sooners.
“That’s the best feeling in the world when every time you touch the ball you feel like it’s going to go in,” he said. “I was in a groove in the second half for sure. It’s tough to guard me whenever my teammates are knocking down shots and making plays. This was a total team effort, it wasn’t just me tonight.”
Stefan Stevenson: 817-390-7760, @StevensonFWST