Starting with the 1988-89 season, the United States Basketball Writers Association has presented a freshman of the year award. In July 2010, the award was named for Oklahoma’s Wayman Tisdale, who was a freshman All-American in 1985 and who passed away in 2009 at the age of 44.
This season might be the first time that a Sooner wins the award named for the former OU star.
While Duke’s Marvin Bagley III, Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton, Texas’ Mo Bomba and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. received the bulk of the pre-season attention, Oklahoma’s Trae Young has dominated the first month of the season.
The 6-foot-2 freshman from Norman is the first hometown player to play for the Sooners in half a century and thus far his numbers have been astounding. He scored 43 against Oregon in the PK80 tournament; that’s the fourth-most by an OU freshman – the top three rookie point totals were posted by Tisdale.
And the man who coached the incandescent Tisdale is impressed.
“He has some special talents without question,” Billy Tubbs told The Oklahoman. “Trae could have made me a lot better coach if he had been around,” Tubbs said. “I don’t know if there’s a point guard I’ve seen — and I don’t see everybody — that’s any better than Trae. I was really hoping he was coming to OU.”
After reaching the 2016 Final Four, Oklahoma dropped off last season following the departure of four starters, including All-American Buddy Hield. Lacking consistent point guard play and with experienced players getting the bulk of playing time, coach Lon Kruger’s team finished 11-20.
Heading into Friday’s game with USC – one of three games in the Hall of Fame Classic in Los Angeles – he’s the nation’s leading scorer and the first freshman to lead Division I in scoring in the season’s first month since Indiana’s Eric Gordon in 2007. Young, Gordon and Kansas State’s Michael Beasley are the only freshmen in the last 20 years to have three 30-point games in November.
Young has scored at least 28 or more in his last five games and is averaging 28.7 per game. He’s also averaging 8.7 assists, which is third nationally. And he’s making 37.9 percent of his 3-pointers; plus, he has Steph Curry range.
Thanks to Young’s infusion of scoring and passing, the Sooners are 6-1 with the only loss coming to Arkansas in Portland. Oklahoma averages 94.4 points per game and is 14th in Division I in assists with 18.7 per game; last season, OU was 331st (out of 351 teams) in assists.
Still, Kruger sees room for improvement.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best, or near it,” he said this week. “We can move it better. We can make shots better. It’s exciting in a way. We’d like to be playing better — making more shots — but we can certainly execute things better and we have to.”
One thing is certain – in the first four weeks of the season, Young has established himself as a player to watch.
Cyclones get the point
After starting 0-2 – a not-so-bad loss at Missouri but an awful stumble against Milwaukee in the home opener – Iowa State was struggling. The Cyclones were predicted to finish near the bottom of the Big 12, mainly because they had to replace four starters.
One of those starters was marvelous Monte’ Morris, the starting point guard the last three seasons who made the Iowa State offense a free-flowing delight. That was hardly the case in the first two losses. The Cyclones never cracked 60, shot 38.8 percent and had a horrific assist/turnover ratio of 16/31.
Iowa State coach Steve Prohm decided to move Nick Weiler-Babb, a 6-foot-5 junior, to point guard. That lineup switch has sparked a six-game winning streak including Thursday night’s 84-78 victory over Iowa in the Cy-Hawk series. Weiler-Babb had 15 points and 10 assists. He’s now averaging 13.9 points, 7.8 assists and 7.0 rebounds a game.
“His basketball I.Q. is really good. He has a really good feel, a really good pace to his game. His assist-to-turnover ratio right now is 6 to 1,” Prohm said. “He has a really good understanding for what we want.”
The move allowed senior Donovan Jackson and freshman Lindell Wiggington to comfortably operate as wings. Wiggington, the first five-star recruit for Iowa State since Marcus Fizer, was considered Morris’ heir but it’s becoming apparent he’s more comfortable playing off the ball. He had 24 against the Hawkeyes and is the first freshman since Fizer to post three consecutive games of 20 or more points.
- TCU joins Oklahoma as a Big 12 team playing in L.A. Friday and it will be a rare homecoming for Frogs coach Jamie Dixon. A native of North Hollywood, just 19 miles from the Staples Center, Dixon’s basketball travels have oddly enough avoided a return to La La Land. “I don’t even know what home is anymore,” he said with a chuckle after his team’s victory over SMU Tuesday night. “We did play in the Bay area, in San Jose, in the NCAA tournament when I was at Pitt, but we never got to L.A. “We always seemed to be put in the West Regional, but it was Boise a couple of times. It was Salt Lake. We never got to LA.”
- Kansas Senior guard Devonté Graham had 35 points for the second consecutive game as Kansas beat Syracuse in Miami last Saturday. He’s the first Jayhawk since Andrew Wiggins (41 and 30 in March 2014) to score 30 in back-to-back games. Graham had seven 3-pointers against the Orange, the most by a Kansas player since Mario Chalmers had eight against Texas in March 2008.
- Baylor’s bench and depth took a big hit with 6-foot-8 senior forward Terry Maston being sidelined until January with a broken hand. The Bears started the season with just 11 players on scholarship. That’s down to eight with Maston’s injury. Baylor has brought in two players from the football team – Ish Wainwright, who played basketball for four years but spent last season as a tight end for the Bears, and sophomore running back Obim Okeke – to fill in as practice players.
And then he said
Kansas coach Bill Self after his team lost to Washington, 74-65, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City – the Jayhawks’ first loss of the season:
“We weren’t ready to play right from the jump. The second half we came out and we were just awful, just no energy. We are so small if you don’t play scrappy and don’t play to your quickness, we are going to look slow and not athletic. They were bigger, more athletic and obviously more skilled. We got outplayed, outcoached, out-everythinged.”