Trae Young took a courtside seat at Chesapeake Energy Arena after shootaround Friday morning — in a way, he’s not all that far from Section 119, Row “R,” where came to watch Thunder games with his dad when he was a kid.
In other ways, though, his life has changed dramatically since those days as a spectator. It didn’t take Young all that long to work his way from those seats, to becoming the first player in Division I history to lead the nation in scoring (27.4) and assists (8.7) as a freshman at Oklahoma, to becoming the face of the Hawks franchise as a rookie, to being voted a starter in the All-Star game in his second season in the NBA, at age 21.
“It’s super surreal,” Young said. “It’s crazy … I think three, four years ago I was in high school here in Oklahoma, two years ago I was in college here, now being back here playing (against) the Thunder in Chesapeake, it’s a dream come true.”
This trip really couldn’t have been timed better for Young. With the Hawks set to face the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Friday night, Young could watch from his home Thursday, surrounded by his mom, dad, younger sister, younger brother and some of his teammates as he found out he’d been named an All-Star starter for the Eastern Conference pool, giving the moment a little extra weight.
“A special moment and special timing,” Young said. “It’s great being able to be back home, being able to go home and spend it with my family and close ones here. To hear the news and be in Oklahoma, it’s special.”
The honor brought him to tears, and his phone immediately began blowing up with congratulations from friends and family.
“I was super-excited,” Young said. “Started tearing up and just emotions were just flowing. It felt a lot like all the hard work and all that I put in in the summer and the offseason just paid off. Obviously I want to continue to get better and win some more games with this team, but me being an All-Star has definitely been a dream of mine.”
Adding to that, Young, who is coming off a right thigh contusion, will be available to play against the Thunder on Friday night, according to Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce. So he’ll avoid missing back-to-back games, and he gets to play in front of his hometown crowd.
“It’s one of those stories where it’s perfect timing, perfect situation, perfect opportunity,” Pierce said. “We fly in to Oklahoma City, he gets to go home and spend some time with his family, in addition he’s named All-Star for the first time. You can’t predict that. I thought it was great for him to receive the honor and be able to do it with his family, some of his teammates, but it’s well-deserved.”
Young, who ranks third in the league in scoring (29.2 points per game) and fourth in assists (8.6), has been a consistent highlight reel for the Hawks (11-34) in an otherwise rough season. He makes shots from the logo, threads passes through the defense, and if you blink, you might miss seeing him nutmeg an opponent.
Young leads the East with seven games of 40-plus points (trailing only James Harden, who leads the league overall with 16), and registered the first 40-point triple-double in franchise history in the Hawks’ loss to Houston on Jan. 8 (with 42 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists).
He becomes the first Hawks player to be voted an All-Star starter since Dikembe Mutombo in 1998, and will become the first Hawks player to start in the All-Star game since Joe Johnson in 2010 (Johnson was a replacement starter).
The All-Star game will take place Feb. 16 at United Center in Chicago.
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