DUNCANVILLE, Texas — Trae Young has been compared to Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry — a point guard with a quick release off the dribble and similar shooting stroke.
While Curry was a three-star recruit coming out of Charlotte Christian in North Carolina who did not emerge until later in his college career, Young has blossomed between his sophomore and junior years of high school at Norman (Okla.) North.
Now ranked as the No. 25 player in the Class of 2017 by ESPN and the No. 4 point guard, Young cemented his place — and showed how much better he’s gotten — on a national stage this weekend.
In two games at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest event, which attracted many of the top teams and talent from the Southwest and nationally, Young averaged 38 points, 6.5 assists, and four rebounds and staked his claim to continue to move up the recruiting rankings.
“I just spent the offseason trying to get better, getting in the weight room, trying to get stronger and become a better player,” said Young, who is nearing 6-2. “Every day, working on my game, trying to become a better player.”
After his performance last summer for Kansas-based Mokan Elite during the Nike EYBL circuit, the offers started to pour in, including Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and many others. Young averaged 18.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists in EYBL play.
Saturday against Richland (Texas), Young put on a show for a crowd that included Texas coach Shaka Smart and Baylor coach Scott Drew. He started strong, opening with an assist and a couple of threes on his way to a 10-point first quarter, and a 30-14 lead for Norman North. He lifted the crowd to their feet several times with some deep three-pointer that would have made Curry proud. After an outstanding quarter, Richland tried to apply pressure to Young in the backcourt, but he consistently dribbled by them into the paint for a floater or a dump-off to a teammate.
Young finished with 44 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals when he checked out with around two minutes to go in the game. Norman North posted a 95-71 victory. Four-star guard C.J. Roberts had 31 for Richland.
In Friday’s game against Irving MacArthur, he scored 33 points, including 22 in the first half, and added six assists and four rebounds against one of the top teams in Texas. Although Norman North lost 97-91, Young had a strong showing against one of the Top 2016 guards in Andrew Jones.
With a substantial number of coaches and recruiting experts watching an event that featured other elite guards such as Jones and Kentucky commit De’Aaron Fox, Young is making his case to move up the rankings and be the No. 1 guard in the Class of 2017.
“There are a lot of great guards out here this weekend,” Young said, “and I just wanted to come out here this weekend, on this stage, and show that I am the best point guard in my class, or that I at least belong in the conversation.”
Young has certainly shown that he belongs in the conversation. He was able to get into the lane at will, knock down contested threes, and he showed a knack for getting into the passing lane for steals.
Young gave no indication to a favorite or even a top 5 although he is expected to trim down to eight to 10 schools in the coming weeks. His most recent visit was to Kentucky for Big Blue Madness, and Kentucky, Kansas, and Oklahoma are rumored to be the favorites. Assistants from Kansas and Oklahoma were also among those watching Young this weekend.
Young and Michael Porter, the No. 2 player overall in the Class of 2017, have said they are interested in playing together as package deals continue to be in vogue. Whether it happens remains to be seen.
“We’re putting it out there for coaches that we’re gonna play together in college,” he said.