Both the college and professional basketball seasons are in full bloom. Players, coaches, and fans alike are locked in as everyone prepares for conference play and the second half of the year respectively. Last year around this same time, the collegiate ranks, and national pundits were raving, about the style, play, and disposition of a young guard from Norman, Oklahoma. Trae Young was a 2018 Big XII freshman of the year, 2017 McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic attendee.
His ability to control a game with his pace and space, as well as unlimited range drew early comparisons to the two-time league MVP Steph Curry. In fact, the Atlanta Hawks made a splash on draft day, orchestrating a deal with the Dallas Mavericks to acquire the third overall selection, Luka Doncic, and a future first round pick for the rights to Young. He officially signed with Atlanta on July 1st, and he paid early dividends, leading the Hawks to a 133-111 victory over Cleveland in his third game as a pro. He finished with a career-high 35 points, to give the world a preview of what he could do on the NBA level.
Through 30 games, he is averaging 15.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 7.1 assists. The Hawks are experiencing some growing pains with a new coach and young nucleus, however if this team can stay together, they will soon understand the leadership and basketball IQ of their new, baby-faced, point guard of the future.
I had a chance to speak with him recently before a game against Philadelphia. The conversation ranged from Allen Iverson, and his shoe deal with adidas, and a lot of other topics in between.
What can you tell me about head coach Lloyd Pierce?
He’s the ultimate player’s coach. I mean he gets each different player, everyone’s tendencies, and things like that…he’s an outgoing person. He’s big on being a family and being together and he’s an amazing coach and person to play for.
Can you talk about your journey from Norman, Oklahoma to Atlanta and the responsibilities that you now have?
I mean it’s a big jump. It’s a different level, different stage, but it’s definitely a big jump for sure.
Can you talk about a time that stands out in your basketball career, where you can pinpoint a time when you knew you could play on the NBA level?
No, I’ve always envisioned myself as a kid growing up being able to play on this level. I’ve always felt like the work that I’ve put in will help me make it to this level, so I can’t remember necessarily one time or one game it was, but I feel like it’s always been this way, and I always felt like could play at this level.
When did you start playing ball?
When I was five, so I’ve been playing for a long time.
Did you pattern your game after Allen Iverson?
Growing up in Oklahoma, what was the first NBA game that you ever went to?
New Orleans had the hurricane [Katrina] and then came to Oklahoma City for a year, and it was the Oklahoma City Hornets with Chris Paul and Speedy Claxton and everybody there, so I’ve been going to games since then.
Talk about your friendship with Michael Porter Jr. Now that both of you guys are rookies in the NBA, that has to feel pretty special.
Yeah, Michael’s my best friend. We talk all the time still. He’s a good dude, I’m really looking forward to seeing him do big things here on this level.
How did you guys meet?
We met back my sophomore year in high school at camp and he was talking about he wanted me to come play AAU with him—actually it was my freshman summer—[he] wanted me to play AAU with him that next year with Mokan Elite, so we made it happen and the rest is history.
Have y’all talked about like how crazy both of you are in the NBA now?
Yeah, yeah definitely. We definitely have those types of moments. We talk all the time and it’s really cool to see and feel.
Draft night was pretty special for you?Draft night was unbelievable for me, for sure!
Last but not least: You have an endorsement deal with adidas. Can you talk about that partnership?
Yeah, definitely it’s cool to be with them. A great brand with adidas, a big global brand, so it’s special to be a part of.