Let’s talk a little high school ball. Tuesday night I went to go watch the defending 6A champion Mustang vs. Norman North, two teams that feature two of the best players in the state in junior guard and highly recruited already Trae Young from Norman North and senior combo guard and Iowa State Cyclone commit Jakolby Long from Mustang.
In past years, 6A basketball was a low scoring class, even with the most talent in the state with the average score being something around 50-45. Well this year has been different, so many 6A schools have so much offensive firepower that it’s impossible not to score. No. 6 Mustang beat No. 2 Norman North 84-74 in what was an unbelievably high scoring game where (despite the score) Mustang won the game off of defensive intensity, by pressing 80 percent of the game, and Jakolby playing like the D1 player he now is by scoring 28 points. Despite a 30 point game by Marcus Dickinson and a 29 point game by Young.
A quick analysis of both Jakolby Long and Trae Young.
I’ve actually seen Jakolby play for years now, dating back to about 2000 when he was two or three years old where I went to his father, and coach Terry Long’s basketball camp when he was the head coach at Douglass High School. He wasn’t doing much at that age, but watching his game evolve over the years have been amazing. One of the major weaknesses he’s had that I’ve noticed in the past years at Mustang has been his shooting. He really seemed to struggle from long-distance, and although he’s been a wing-player and sometimes a point guard during high school, his ball-handling struggled a little bit when dribbling through traffic. Tuesday night, in what was his second-to-last home game at Mustang, he’s improved those two things and now along with defense, those are his strong points. He’s turned his weakness into his strength and that’s what he needs to take his career to the next level in college. His poise and his ability to adapt to seemingly any game situation is special for a 17 or 18-year old kid. His awareness offensively and defensively is great and he’s fundamental. When he goes up for a shot he quickly follows the shot and in a lot of cases on a miss, he gets his own rebound and gets an easier layup. With his 6-foot-4 frame, he’s the size of the average high school team’s post player. However, one thing that he noticeably needs to improve on is his shot selection. Sometimes he takes contested shots that he probably shouldn’t take, but look for coach Long to fix that here soon, with his son going off to a deep and talented Iowa State squad next year.
Trae definitely lives up to the hype. Honestly, I saw a team (Mustang) play excellent defense on this guy the entire 30 minutes he was in the game, and he still scored 29 points. The fact that he really didn’t have the best game and still basically scored 30 points is unbelievable and the fact that he’s only a junior with an entire season left is even more amazing. His offers reflect his talent as well, some of which being Mizzou, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Stanford, Texas, Virginia, Kentucky, SMU, Texas Tech, and even Duke. He’s gotten so much attention especially considering his age. He reminds me a lot of Stevie Clark when he was at Douglass. He can pull up from virtually anywhere on the court and make it with confidence. There were also multiple times yesterday where he singlehandedly dribbled through an entire press alone. Not to mention, the press looked a lot like West Virginia’s. It wasn’t a weak press on any level. Two things he has to improve on is his defensive intensity and his body language at times. Don’t get me wrong, he jumps into passing lanes and get steals but let’s not get that misconstrued, there are other aspects of defense. For example, everyone talks about how poor Russell Westbrook’s defense has been this year, even when he dang near leads the league in steals. What will make Young a superstar at the next level and in the NBA will be a developed and improved defensive game. Both college and the NBA are looking for 2-way guards more than ever. There aren’t many in the league that can do that, but if you can, your valued. He really has to improve on his body language, which at times when calls don’t go his way, or when he’s not making shots I noticed he seems to get down and often times has something to say to the referee. At this level of basketball he’s in no position to debate with a referee, I’ve never seen a high school kid reverse a call and high school doesn’t have instant replay so the best bet is to just continue playing. Clearly this kid’s pros overshadow his few cons and the journey has just begun. He will be a draft pick one day and will be a talented pro if he improves on his few flaws.
Photo: Bryan Terry/ The Oklahoman