Trae Young has been an absolute revelation for Oklahoma this season. Though he was ranked as the No. 16 recruit in the 2017 class, no one expected the freshman to set the college basketball world on fire the way he has this season. He leads the nation in both scoring and assists and set the school record for assists in only 16 games.
Off the court, little about Young is imposing. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, he rarely has a size advantage over opponents. He doesn’t have the go-go gadget limbs of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the freakish athleticism of LeBron James or the blistering speed of John Wall. Young is without a doubt a fantastic athlete, but his physical gifts aren’t what set him apart from his peers.
Young is thriving thanks to his quick release and savant-level passing, but those are skills he honed with meticulous work between games. One of the tools Young utilizes is video. By watching both himself and opposing defenses, he’s able to identify moves and plays that worked and identify opportunities to attack opposing defenses.
“Always, every day, we’re up in the film room watching film and figuring out different ways to get better, not only as a team, but individually as well,” Young said recently on the On the Sidelines with Evan Daniels podcast. “I watch a lot of film and tape on different ways to play basketball. I look at defenses, how to get open, just the little things that can get you to the next level. I think a lot of it is watching film, and that’s something coach (Lon) Kruger prides himself in, just watching film and finding ways to get better offensively and defensively.”
Video helps blur the line between those blessed with elite athleticism and everyone else. A player who understands the game and sees how things are going to develop will always have a leg up on the physical specimen.
The first part is simply watching great teams and players to understand what upper-echelon basketball looks like. Kobe Bryant readily admits he “stole” many of his moves by watching the video of NBA greats. The more athletes expose themselves to the game at the highest level, the more they'll absorb and take in.
Players must also watch video of themselves, to check their form, how they move with and without the ball, and spot moves that worked previously. Create playlists of drives, 3-pointers, defense, etc. to hone in on certain aspects of your game.
Finally, check out opponent videos. No defense is airtight and if athletes can find holes in the game plan, they can be exploited.
Simply watching video won’t turn any player into a scorching shooter like Young, but it can nullify the gap between an average athlete and an elite one.