<
>

What's it like to face Trae Young?

Trae Young hasn't been shocked by what he has done thus far, setting college basketball on fire -- but just about everyone else has. Sure, he was a McDonald's All-American -- and a proven scorer. But no one expected the gaudy numbers the Oklahoma freshman point guard has put up thus far this season. No one anticipated Young leading the nation in scoring and assists as the calendar flipped to 2018.

Who better to go to than those who had the unenviable task of trying to stop -- or maybe a better word is contain -- Young? So we asked nine players who have had that primary task this season what they think.

Facing Young: "What blew me away was his vision."

Young's game is not one-dimensional, so I asked each of the primary defenders who tried to check Young: What stood out to you the most?

"He's really quick and can shoot it," Oregon's Payton Pritchard said after Young torched the Ducks for 43 points and seven assists. "He changes speeds so well."

"What blew me away was his vision," said Ball State's Tayler Persons, whose team saw Young put up 22 points and 13 assists in the second game of the season. "What gets overlooked with how much he's scoring is that he's an elite, elite passer."

"His ability to change it up is what makes him so special," added North Texas' Ryan Woolridge, whose team saw Young go for 32 points and 10 assists. "It's so hard to guess what he's going to do."

"His decision-making," Omaha's KJ Robinson, whom Young got for for 15 points and 10 assists and in Young's first college game. "He makes all the right reads off the ball screens."

"He plays a lot older than he is, way more experienced," Northwestern State's Vontay Ott said after Young went for 26 points and 22 assists. "His basketball IQ is really impressive. He knows how to take advantage of defensive players; he knows when and where help is coming and when to dish off or finish."

His shot: "You just can't defend that."

It's deep, it's accurate and defenders aren't sure when it's coming. Young makes shots from long distance (and we mean long distance) and does it with regularity -- even though defenders are well aware he has that kind of range.

"He has such a quick release, so you don't know when he's going to shoot it. He has beyond NBA range," USC's Jonah Mathews said after allowing 29 points and nine assists.

"He shoots it so quick that you don't have a chance to react," said Portland's JoJo Walke, who permitted 33 points and eight assists.

"It's quick, so you're really not expecting him to shoot it," Woolridge said. "You just can't defend that."

"It's smooth, and his release is the same every time," Ott said.

More than points: "He sees everything."

Young leads the nation in assists, and his ability to not only see the open teammate but deliver the ball in spots where the teammate can score, is something that has drawn no shortage of praise. Young throws accurate lobs and a variety of pinpoint passes into tight windows but also makes the easy pass. Sure, he takes chances, which is why his turnovers are also high, but he has the ball in hands a ton:

"He makes the right play, and doesn't force it," Mathews said. "He sees so well off the ball screens. He makes quick reads."

"He knows where his teammates are going to be," Ott said. "Some point guards have to tell players where to go, but he just knows where they are going to be."

"His court vision is high-level. He sees everything," Woolridge said. "And he has the ability to pass with either hand, and it's accurate."

The drive: "You don't know what he's going to do."

Young isn't the quickest guy around or the biggest. But he's able to get to the basket and get to the foul line on a consistent basis. How and why?

"He has the ball on a string," Persons said. "And he plays with such a great pace. He's always under control, is a smart player and uses every angle on you."

"He changes speeds, is deceptive, and you don't know if he's going to pass or shoot," Pritchard said.

"When he drives, you don't know what he's going to do," UTSA's Giovanni De Nicolao said after allowing 28 points and nine assists. "With a lot of players, you already know what they are going to do. But not with him, and that makes him so dangerous."

Guarding Young: "Pray he misses."

How do you guard Young? He's shooting 55 percent on shots inside the arc and 40 percent on those beyond the 3-pojnt line -- many of which come from 30 or so feet. He also makes 86 percent of his free throws and averages 10.6 assists. There's no easy answer.

"You can't give him space, because he'll shoot it -- from anywhere," Walker said. "And if you get too close to him, he'll get by you. ... You just have to hope he's missing that day and you get lucky."

"Turn him into a scorer," said Arkansas guard Anton Beard, who gave up 28 points and five assists.. "Make him go where he's driving and he doesn't see lanes to make passes. You've got to attack him on defense, make him uncomfortable. It's hard to do."

"You have to be physical with him," Woolridge added. "And then pray you have backside help."

"Your best chance may be to just give him the deep 3 and pray he misses," Ott said.

On the court: "He just plays."

Young is only 19 and has played in just 13 college basketball games, but he doesn't look the part of a freshman who just entered Big 12 play. There are several aspects to his demeanor that have impressed his competitors.

"He doesn't panic or get frustrated," Beard said. "Most guys his age get rattled and you can get them out of their comfort zone, but he stays in his lane. We talk a lot on the court, but he doesn't talk at all. He's focused. We tried to get into his head, but we couldn't do it to him."

"He's not talking [trash] to guys, but he has some flair," Persons said. "He's into the crowd and is having fun, but you can tell he's a humble dude. The guy is leading the country in scoring and assists, and it's hard to be humble. But he is. He's a good dude."

"He doesn't talk," Woolridge said. "He just plays."

"He just plays his game," Walker said. "He just does what he has to to win. He plays the game the right way."

"He's always focused," De Nicolao said. "I was trying to distract him, rattle him. But he keeps his poise."

Any weakness? "The sky's the limit."

Young has been an offensive machine, but he isn't without areas of improvement. "I know I have to keep working on my game," he told ESPN. Young is often given the assignment of the weakest offensive perimeter player, and part of the reason is that he exerts so much energy on offense.

"When he gets to the next level, it'll be strength," Ott said. "Especially on defense. I know people question his quickness, but he's quick enough to get where he wants."

"Defense," Persons added. "If he gets that down, the sky's the limit."

"I think he's the total package," Woolridge said.

"He can definitely get stronger," Robinson said. "But with the ball in his hands, he's pretty much got it all."

He reminds us of ...

Young is flattered by all the comparisons and said he tries to take things from guys such as Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, but he just wants to be the best version of himself. Most of those who have gotten the ultimate close-up of Young agree on one player.

"Right now I'm going with Steph," Beard said. "This guy is changing the game."

"The way he's been playing, that's a good comparison," Pritchard said. "He shoots it so well, changes speeds and can also pass it."

"Steph because of his ability to shoot the 3, get to the rim and his shot selection," Persons said. "He'll take some crazy shots, but they go in."

"He can raise up and shoot from anywhere like Steph," De Nicolao said. "He's got an amazing handle, and they can both pass it well. Also, their body types are similar -- not too big, not too strong -- and both are really smart players."