Oklahoma basketball: Sign of good times ahead for the Sooners in 2017-18

aradThere is no way around it. The 2016-17 season for men’s Oklahoma basketball was disappointing and difficult to take from a fan’s perspective. But it was a necessary step and learning curve that the young Sooners had to endure in order to get better.

The Sooner roster last season included 12 of 15 players who were in their first or second year of college basketball.

A big reason for brighter prospects in the coming season is not just the fact the virtually everyone from last years talented but very young squad is back with a year’s worth of valuable game experience under their belt, but because of another young player, literally and figuratively, who is expected to be a key contributor in 2017-18.

Trae Young was rated as the second-best point guard in the country among the nation’s 2017 recruiting class, and the highly touted youngster, no pun intended, will be playing for coach Lon Kruger and the Sooners just down the road from where he starred ins high school, in Norman.

The Sooners can’t wait to get their No. 1 recruit on campus and working out with his teammates, and based on recent news reports, that is going to happen even sooner than expected.

Young was one of 28 players invited to tryout for the USA U19 (under 19 years of age) National Team. Twelve players will be selected for that team, which will represent the United States at the World Championship to be played next month in Cairo, Egypt.

That left the top Sooner recruit with a difficult choice: Try to make the national team and represent his country playing alongside the best of his age group in an international competition, or stay home an concentrate on the next phase of his basketball career by working out and being around his new teammates and building chemistry and camaraderie.

He opted for the latter, and that is a strong sign for Oklahoma men’s basketball that Young is focused on fitting in from the start and helping make the Sooners all they can be, which is much better than they were this past season.

“It was definitely tough,” Young told Oklahoma City Oklahoman sports writer Ryan Aber. “You have the opportunity to go represent your country, not just your university and not just your state.

“There’s no turning back now,” he said. “I feel this is going to be the best for me and my team and this university in the long run.”

The Sooners and their fans are expecting big things from the five-star-rated point guard, with memories of the game-changing talent of Buddy Hield not far removed.

Young averaged 43 points a game his senior season at Norman North High School, and scored nine points, all on three-pointers, along with four rebounds and five assists for the winning West team in the McDonald’s All-American Game in March.