UK Men's Basketball

UK still high on five-star point guard Trae Young’s recruiting list

Trae Young talks about UK and recruiting

Five-star point guard Trae Young talks about his recruitment, John Calipari and much more.
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Five-star point guard Trae Young talks about his recruitment, John Calipari and much more.

Making a decision on where to go to school is a tough choice for just about every top-flight basketball recruit.

Often, they’re hearing from the best coaches in the game, trying to sway them to the best programs in the country, making all sorts of promises about their futures.

Five-star point guard Trae Young has to go through this process twice in the course of his recruitment.

The first decision, which Young made last week, was over where to complete his high school career.

Young had been crushing opponents at Norman (Okla.) North, averaging 33.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.4 steals per game this past season in a state that isn’t necessarily known for having the highest level of competition.

Some college coaches, including UK’s John Calipari, suggested to Young that a move to a prep school for his senior season might better prepare him for the jump to college basketball.

Top recruits move from traditional high schools to prep schools all the time, but Young was more open than most about the subject. He publicly said that he was considering the move, and coaches at some of the nation’s elite programs had been recruiting him for more than a year.

Ultimately, and somewhat surprisingly, he decided to stay put at Norman North.

“The main reason is because of family,” Young told the Herald-Leader. “I know I’ll be going off to college, wherever I go. My reason for staying at home had nothing to do with my college decision. It had more to do with me being close to home, where I can still train with the same people. I can still train with my dad. I can still see my little sisters and brother grow up.”

Young’s college decision is the first thing many who have followed his recruitment brought up after his high school decision was made public. Oklahoma has made Young its top priority for the class of 2017, and keeping him home for the next year certainly can’t hurt the Sooners’ chances.

But, Young says, it won’t necessarily help them either.

“I let most of the coaches know that the reason for staying home had nothing to do with college,” he reiterated.

Young has had a stellar spring on the AAU and camp circuit, leading Mokan Elite to one of the best records in the Nike regular season while also being among that league’s most productive individual players. The 6-foot-2 prospect is averaging 21.3 points (fourth in the league) and 7.1 assists (second in the league) per game, and he’s in Colorado this week to compete for a spot on the Team USA U18 squad, going up against some of the best guards in the country, many of them older than he is.

He doesn’t physically wow you, and he doesn’t have blazing speed at the point guard position, but Young is quick, clever and creates space for himself and others as well as any player in the class.

“He’s really crafty at the point guard position,” said Scout.com’s Evan Daniels. “He can really shoot the basketball and is able to get hot in a hurry.”

One knock on Young is that he doesn’t have the best shot selection, and that led to him going 30.7 percent from three-point range during the Nike regular season, a low percentage for someone with such a nice outside shot.

“I think some of it is he gets a little shot-happy sometimes and takes some difficult shots,” Daniels said. “When he hones in on his shot selection, he becomes a much better shooter. I know he can shoot the ball. But now he’s going to have to cut out the bad shots, and I think his percentages will go way up.”

Calipari liked what Young was doing enough to offer him a UK scholarship last year, making him the first point guard in the class of 2017 to receive one from the Cats.

Everybody knows what happens whenever you go to Kentucky. You’re on that big stage.

Trae Young, five-star point guard

Young remains UK’s clear No. 1 at the point guard spot.

“I hear from Coach Cal all the time,” he said. “Me and Coach Cal, Coach (Kenny) Payne, the whole coaching staff, we talk quite a bit, and they’ve definitely made me a priority in my class. I really like Kentucky.”

Scout.com ranks Young as the No. 26 overall player in the class of 2017, and he said he already has aspirations of being a one-and-done NBA Draft pick.

Obviously, he’s aware of Calipari’s success with such players at his position.

“They’ve had some great, talented guards go through there and play under Coach Cal,” he said. “The list is long. That’s definitely something I look it.

“Everybody knows what happens whenever you go to Kentucky. You’re on that big stage. And a lot of people end up having the chance, the possibility of going to the highest level. And that’s something I want to do.”

Young, who took visits to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas before coming to Team USA camp, said he plans to cut his recruiting list to about five schools after next month’s Nike Peach Jam finals.

When asked if the Wildcats would be one of his finalists, Young left little room for doubt.

“It’s looking good for Kentucky,” he said with a smile.

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats

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