Maravich has played in the building. Shaq has played there, and Barkley, Dominique Wilkins and Bernard King, Rick Fox and Sam Bowie and Karl Malone.
That’s lofty company but it’s possible Oklahoma’s Trae Young could be mentioned in the same breath as those greats, all of whom suited up against Alabama as Young will when the Sooners face the Crimson Tide in one of the marquee matchups in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
No. 12 Oklahoma at Alabama
When: 1:15 p.m., Saturday
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 13-7, Oklahoma 15-4
Radio: 95.3 FM
Young, a 6-foot-1 freshman, is the No. 1 scorer in NCAA Division I at 30.3 points per game. In an almost unthinkable double-double, he also leads the nation in assists at 9.6 per game, so he accounts for almost 50 points per contest, well over half the production for the No. 12 team in the country.
Young’s coach, Lon Kruger (who has also coached at Coleman Coliseum before during his tenure at Florida), admits that, in all his many years, he’s never had a player quite like Young.
“When you think about how what he’s doing has never been done, sure, it’s a little bit of a new experience for everyone,” Kruger said on the Big 12 teleconference this week.
While there has been a great deal of conversation about a potential “duel” between Young and Alabama freshman Collin Sexton, nearly everyone — coaches and players — downplayed that angle this week. Alabama coach Avery Johnson said on Friday that Sexton, who missed two games with an abdominal injury before playing 20 minutes in Tuesday’s loss at Ole Miss, had “not had any setbacks” this week and would be available, but stopped short of saying Sexton would be in the Crimson Tide starting lineup.
Even if he is, UA players said their thoughts were on the team, not an individual matchup.
“Honestly, I don’t see the comparison,” said Alabama forward Donta Hall. “Collin’s got his game and Trae’s got his game and they are different. To me, they are just a good team. They have other shooters, like we do. They crash the boards and so do we. That’s what matters.”
Johnson, who has downplayed the head-to-head angle in interviews this week, continued to talk “team first” on Friday.
“It’s a matter of doing your job,” Johnson said. “It’s not a contest where one guy launches a 30-foot shot and makes it, so the other guy feels like he has to match it.
“Trae is a great player with a high basketball I.Q.,” Johnson added. “But they are an efficient offensive team. (Bradley) Manek can shoot it from anywhere. Christian James is a good shooter. We have to play great defense and play offense at a tempo that’s good for us.
“We don’t want a game in the 90’s. That wouldn’t bode well for us.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.