It’s likely that many fans in the college basketball world have heard of five-star phenom Trae Young by now. He is a highly touted, high-scoring point guard whose game has been compared to one of the most popular and game-changing players of all-time in NBA MVP Stephen Curry. Plus, he’s a hometown kid whose heart led him to stay in state and play for the Sooners rather than chase blue chip dreams in Lawrence or Lexington.
So, a chance at reaching college basketball royalty may be written in the stars for Trae Young. But the beauty of Lon Kruger’s 2017 recruiting class doesn’t end there. A five-star recruit like the Norman North superstar would be revolutionary for most programs, but the OU head coach also secured the commitment of another versatile, highly touted in-state prospect months before in Harrah, Okla., four-star forward Brady Manek, possibly making this class one for the ages.
In Oklahoma’s up-tempo, pace-and-space system, the 6-9, stretch-four Manek could become the perfect frontcourt complement to Trae Young’s backcourt theatrics with a little time to develop in Norman. Once he adds some beef to his thin frame, Manek’s skills and upside could evoke shades of Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari or a less athletic Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz. Between Young, Kameron McGusty and Manek, the Sooners could potentially be looking at one of the most exciting trios of scorers in the nation for years under Kruger’s explosive system.
There is elite college basketball potential evident — and possibly an NBA future — when breaking down Manek’s game a little further. This is not hyperbole for anyone who watches his film. There are a couple of things about the lanky sharpshooter that stand out right away: his outstanding basketball skills and his very thin frame.
Possessing the agility, bounce and handles of a go-to scorer, Manek’s footwork and body control are also good enough that despite his disadvantage in weight, allow him to find success all over the floor. He may not muscle many Big 12 forwards down to the low blocks next season, but fans could certainly picture the dynamic inside-outside threat shaking a defender off for a step-back three in the clutch or finding space for a baseline hook late in the shot clock.
Take a look at Manek’s effortless stroke and smooth offensive game below.
The options Manek could give Kruger in this system make for a very interesting future of Oklahoma basketball. Before he gets comfortable on the floor against competition at the next level, Manek’s body must develop, but his skill set is so advanced that it’s hard to believe he won’t find time in the rotation sooner rather than later. As Dante Buford’s position as the primary frontcourt scoring option off the bench is hardly established and forward Matt Freeman struggled to find steady playing time through his inconsistent freshman season, the Harrah star has a great chance at securing a spot in the rotation right away after a stellar high school career. He could even be utilized as a stretch five if Kruger decides to go small.
It’s hard to say if the versatile forward will move around and score with the ease he displayed in high school right away, but then again the same could be said of Young who also has a bit to gain in the weight department. It’s a reasonable expectation that Manek gains about 10-12 pounds by next season to get on the floor and put pressure on defenses all game long. Complementing the strengths of Kameron McGusty, Trae Young, Kristian Doolittle and Rashard Odomes, Manek could be a key piece for Lon Kruger’s high-scoring Sooners for years to come.
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