As the Oklahoma Sooners go through an impressive sports year, the debate and storylines grow with each passing basketball game: Are Baker Mayfield and Trae Young the greatest football/hoops duo of all-time to appear in the same collegiate year?
Here are the facts: Only one school has ever had the Heisman winner and the Naismith winner in the same season. That school? The University of Oklahoma with Sam Bradford and Blake Griffin in 2008-2009. That was a damn impressive year for both teams. The football team finished 12-2 and lost to Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators in the BCS National Championship Game. Meantime, the basketball team went 30-6 and was a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They reached the Elite Eight before losing to the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Oh yeah, and let’s show the baseball team some love, as it went 43-20 and was the #7 overall national seed.
Sam Bradford completed 67.9% of his passes, throwing for 4,720 yards with 50 touchdowns to eight interceptions. Mayfield is coming off his Heisman season with a 70.5% completion rate, with 4,627 passing yards and 43 touchdowns to six interceptions. Mayfield also had 311 rushing yards and five rushing TDs, while Bradford had 42 rushing yards.
On the court, Blake Griffin’s sophomore, and final, season in Norman included double-doubles night in, night out. He averaged 22.7 points per game and 14.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 65.4% from the floor. Then there’s Trae Young, who is coming off a 44-point, 9-assist performance against Baylor on Monday night and is now averaging 30.3 points per game, 9.5 assists per game and 4.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 45.2% from the floor and 40.9% from three-point range.
As a team, the football squads in 2008 vs. 2017 had similar seasons, in reaching the pinnacle of the postseason. As for this basketball team, a two seed in the NCAA Tournament (which the 08-09 team was) feels like a bit of a stretch for this group at the moment (we have them as three seed right now). But a couple of more quality Big 12 wins and a solid second place finish in the conference standings, and/or a Big 12 Tournament win, and a two seed is not out of reach. And could you see this team reaching an Elite Eight? I sure could.
Which duo is better?
For my money, I’m taking the Baker Mayfield/Trae Young tandem over the Sam Bradford/Blake Griffin pairing.
Ultimately, it’s a fun debate that can go round and round endlessly, but Mayfield and Young are the more dynamic and versatile players. Granted, that’s been a trend across sports in recent years. Quarterbacks that are statues in the pocket, a la Bradford and Eli Manning, are slowly being phased out for the likes of Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson. These new-age QBs are not Michael Vick, they are quarterbacks who want to pass first, but can use their legs to their advantage when needed. That’s how I would best describe Baker Mayfield’s game as well. He can run, but he would prefer to throw, however his feet in and out of the pocket play a huge role in his game.
As for hoops, the big man continues to be eliminated, or at least given less of a role, in the college and pro game. Everything is about the guard and being able to play the point or off the ball. Trae Young can do both. Combo guards are in and Trae Young is a perfect fit. Of course, advanced analytics have also made the three pointer as important as its ever been in the NBA. If you can hit a three, you’ll have a job and make a very handsome living (who else can explain Kyle Korver making $5 million per year?). Now Trae Young is a helluva lot more than Kyle Korver. Heck, he’s already drawing Steph Curry comparisons with his complete game and quick release. I don’t think it’s all that farfetched, as the two even have similar, humble demeanors.
Regardless, you can’t really go wrong here. The fact that this can even be debated, and it just so happens to be the same school/teams within a 10-year span says what a great job the athletic department, from AD Joe Castiglione to the coaches (Bob Stoops, Jeff Capel, Lon Kruger) to the recruiting coordinators, are doing in Norman. It’s an exciting time for OU fans and one they should make sure they don’t take for granted.