VOL. 133 | NO. 6 | Monday, January 8, 2018
OU Guard Young an Intriguing Lottery Prospect; Tigers Win; Conley Vows Return
By Don Wade
Do you have Trae Young fever? Does just considering the possibility of the freshman Oklahoma Sooners point guard in a Grizzlies uniform inspire a rapid heartbeat, cause you to break out in a sweat, and dream of a massive turnaround as soon as next season?
When the college basketball season started, Young was not really in the conversation of one-and-done top-shelf lottery picks in the summer of 2018. Of course, the Grizzlies also were not in the lottery discussion.
But times have changed. The Grizzlies, at 12-27, are going to miss the playoffs and be in the lottery. The trick, it would seem, is to be bad enough to tilt the odds toward getting one of the first five picks. That’s where the line falls separating the top players from the next tier.
Oklahoma guard Trae Young heads up court in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma State in Norman, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. Oklahoma won 109-89. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Young was not supposed to be a top-five lock. But now his combination of scoring and playmaking has people putting him in the conversation for the first three picks.
Through Oklahoma’s 12-2 start, Young was averaging 29.4 points and 10.2 assists. Not a misprint. He also was picking up 3.9 rebounds per game. He hung 43 points with seven assists on Oregon. He went for 39 and 11 as the Sooners knocked off a really good TCU team on the road.
And of course there are the 26 points and 22 assists, albeit against Northwestern State, that really grabbed everyone’s attention. The scoring point guard might well be the best place to begin in the NBA today and Young looks like that’s what he could be.
So what are the knocks on Young? Here’s Andrew Sharp of SI.com, who has become a huge Young fan, on the concerns: “Young is small – listed at 6-2, but that looks generous – and he’s not an eye-popping athlete. There's reason to worry about his defense, and in part because everything he’s doing is too crazy to be real, I’m worried about how he’ll fare against NBA length and athleticism.”
Those are fair points. Put another way: Will Trae Young come closer to being a player who makes a relatively seamless transition to the NBA or will he be one of those college wonders who spends his rookie season getting his shots blocked a lot?
At this still very early date, a different si.com writer had Young going seventh in the draft while Sporting News moved him up to third and nbadraft.net had him second. In two of those mock drafts, the Grizzlies were projected to take Texas 7-foot-center Mohamed Bamba. The obvious caveat from these mock draft gurus: If the Grizzlies trade Marc Gasol, the pick makes some sense (presuming it’s not a Hasheem Thabeet flashback).
Meantime, imagine Mike Conley and Trae Young sharing the backcourt in almost interchangeable roles. For all the challenges it might create on defense with two small players, it sure could be fun on offense.
Anyway, add the Sooners to your college basketball viewing list. The kid’s a blast to watch play, no matter what NBA uniform he ends up wearing.
CONLEY SAYS HE WILL RETURN BUT NO TIMETABLE
Before last Friday’s game vs. Washington, Conley said he would play again this season but offered no timeline for his return. Conley has not played in two months and he said that heel pain is still an issue, although he said the Achilles itself has not been compromised.
“I’m very confident I’ll be suiting up at some point,” he said.
Conley has been getting on-court work for a while now.
“Unfortunately, the process is slow,” Conley said. “But I’m making progress.”
The Grizzlies’ front office will also have a say in this, of course. With Conley’s history of Achilles problems and making the playoffs a long shot at best, it would be tempting to keep Conley on the sidelines the rest of the season.
TIGERS GET FIRST AAC WIN
The University of Memphis broke its three-game losing streak and won its first American Athletic Conference game with a 76-67 victory over Tulsa Saturday afternoon at FedExForum.
Point guard Jeremiah Martin scored a career-high 28 points and went 9-of-17 from the floor as the Tigers improved to 10-6 and 1-2. Tulsa lost in AAC play for the first time this season, falling to 10-6 and 3-1.
Forward Mike Parks Jr. finished with a season-best 16 points and season-high-tying seven rebounds.
“Mike was being more aggressive, more physical, and everyone was taking the challenge to go rebound the basketball,” said Tigers coach Tubby Smith as Memphis held a 33-31 edge on the glass.
Memphis also took much better care of the ball, handing out 20 assists to just 10 turnovers. Martin was the leader in both categories, finishing with eight assists and four turnovers.
The Tigers return to action at 6 p.m. Tuesday vs. Tulane at FedExForum.
PENNY’S EAST HIGH MUSTANGS ON 3-GAME LOSING STREAK
While some Memphis Tigers fans clamor for former Tiger and ex-NBA star Penny Hardaway to become the next coach, Hardaway now has his hands full with his East High School Mustangs.
This past weekend in the annual Penny Hardaway ARS/Rescue Rooter National Hoopfest, East lost 73-70 to Olive Branch and 78-73 in overtime to Chicago Simeon at White Station. Previous to that, East lost in the title game of the City of Palms Tournament in Fort Myers, Florida. Going into that tourney, East was the No. 1-ranked high school team in the country, but slipped to fifth after the loss.
No doubt, East will tumble farther down the rankings this week.