Gee, isn’t Trae Young lucky to have a swell guy like John Calipari looking out for him, selflessly asserting what a great idea it would be if Young left Norman North to play at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas or Montverde Christian Academy near Orlando?
It probably has nothing to do with the collateral possibility that should Young get himself to Nevada or Florida, he’d be far more likely to sign with Kentucky rather that a school like, oh, say, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.
Isn’t it nice to know that the king of one-and-done at the collegiate level seeks to be the impetus behind a prep kid going three-and-done at his hometown high school.
Isn’t it nice to know that in an age of college athletics as a billion-dollar business, Calipari and his pin-striped suit are unaffected by all of it, that for all of his kiss-the-ring self-importance in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, all the Wildcat coach really wants to do is give a rising high school junior some sound advice; never mind that advice would have him moving cross country for all of a single school year, away from his family (which doesn’t seem all the wild about the idea), away from his friends, away from everything in the name of, as Young himself told Transcript sports writer John McKelvey on Wednesday, having “a good chance to be a McDonald’s All-American” and being in a better position “to lead a team as a freshman in college.”
If any of this isn’t making sense, first read the story next to this one, the one that explains how Young announced Wednesday he’ll probably spend his junior year at Norman North before bolting for harder hardwood pastures.
Also, when you read it, understand that you’re witnessing the slimy underbelly of big-time, big-prospect, high school-slash-college basketball.
Calipari, the Kentucky coach, has already offered a scholarship to Young. So has Coach K and Duke. So have Lon Kruger and Oklahoma and Travis Ford and Oklahoma State and everybody else, too.
Young already has the job.
A five-star recruit, even without reaching a state tournament his first two years of high school, even with other Division I prospects playing alongside him, his basketball future is nonetheless entirely in his hands without ever leaving Norman North until it’s time to go to college.
Yet a guy who specializes in coaching collegians for a single year has no qualms about suggesting Young get the heck out of Dodge (or Norman).
Though Young may face a national schedule (and maybe an ESPN game or two) if he played at Findlay or Montverde, excelling there, against more similar talent, it would still not be as impressive as bringing it every single night against players and teams Young and the T-Wolves have sometimes struggled to top despite the talent level not being so level around here.
And should North win a state championship in Young’s junior season, this coming season, being the leader of an overachieving Timberwolves team in the midst of a rebuild the following season might be the most impressive thing of all, when the team really would be his.
At the national prep schools, a great player can hide. Not so around here. The real pressure, should Young choose to face it, will always be here.
It is tempting to ask Young if it’s all about him or if it’s about something bigger: his friends, his town, his high school, his teammates and trying to do something no Norman high school boys basketball team has done since Norman High won it all in 1999.
Only it’s not the right question.
Put the self-interest of any college coach aside, and the place where Young can best become the finest person, player, teammate and leader he can possibly be remains Norman North, and it’s not very close.
Gee, you’d think a guy as smart as Calipari would know all that. You’d think a guy like that wouldn’t have such a blind spot.