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Bob Lutz: OU's Young is the hot name but Shockers' Shamet will be heard from

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Bob Lutz
December 15, 2017 - 12:43 pm

Duke’s Marvin Bagley III might be the best freshman in college basketball this season. But I reserve handing him that title until after I see Oklahoma guard Trae Young in person Saturday against Wichita State.

Young, OU’s 6-feet-2 dynamo, is leading the country in scoring at 28.8 points per game. He also finds time to average 8.8 assists. He does everything and is sure to be on his way to the NBA after one season with the Sooners.

But the guy they’re not talking about much is Wichita State redshirt sophomore Landry Shamet. And by “they’re” I mean the national pundits who drive the media coverage of college basketball.

The 6-4 Shamet is legit and we know that around here. And it’s not like Shamet is a national secret because he has gotten some well-deserved run.

But while all eyes will be on Young during Saturday’s WSU-OU game at Intrust Bank Arena, I’m expecting Shamet to steal the show. Or at least be a player who earns equal billing with the Oklahoma whiz kid.

Those portraying this game as a Young-Shamet showdown are probably letting their emotions get in the way of the truth. I don’t know how much Young is going to guard Shamet, or vice versa. But I suspect they won’t spend all that much time defending one another because of the potential wear-down factor.

We know Shamet is an outstanding defensive player, but the Shockers have others who can take on the Young assignment. How the Sooners go about defending Shamet will be an interesting side story.

Shamet averages just more than 16 points per game playing for a coach, Gregg Marshall, whose system does not churn out high individual scorers. But the Shocker guard has scored 51 points in the team’s past two wins over South Dakota State and Oklahoma State, including 30 last Saturday in Stillwater, Okla.

Shamet shoots 55.3 percent overall and 53.5 percent from the three-point line. He missed the fall workout period with a stress fracture in his foot and looked a bit tentative in the Shockers’ early games.

That’s not the case now. Shamet is playing at a high level both offensively and defensively and after playing only 17, 20 and 24 minutes in Wichita State’s first three games, has been on the floor for at least 34 minutes in five of the Shockers’ past six games.

He’s that valuable. There is a noticeable drop-off when Shamet is not on the floor, even though the Shockers have solid depth at the point guard position with Samajae Haynes-Jones, Conner Frankamp and Austin Reaves all capable of playing the position.

Perhaps Shamet will get more rest time when Haynes-Jones fully recovers from a stomach issue that has kept him sidelined for most of the past couple of games, but don’t bet on it. Just two seasons after Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet departed as Shocker icons, Shamet is playing his way into their small circle.

"He's a great shooter,” Marshall said of Shamet to reporters this week. “Obviously, he has worked extremely hard. You aren't born a great shooter; you have to develop it and work on it. He has great hand-eye, a tremendous athlete, he elevates on his jump shot. He has great form, and has had great coaches and teachers all along the way. He takes good shots, too. He doesn't take a whole lot of bad shots. I don't recall very often ever being upset with him pulling the trigger."

As Marshall has said many times, though, Shamet’s value extends beyond his ability as a shooter. There are so many things he can do, starting with better-than-average passing and ballhandling abilities that allowed him to move from the shooting guard position to the point last season. That move, essentially trading backcourt spots with Conner Frankamp, ignited the 2016-17 Shockers.

Shamet’s size is a huge boost, too. It allows him to guard opposing guards and small forwards and to rarely be caught in a defensive mismatch.

Young may well be the best player on the floor Saturday at Intrust Bank Arena, but Shamet is going to have something to say about that.

Young has scored at least 28 points in the Sooners previous five games and had 43 in a 90-80 win over Oregon on Nov. 26. He, too, plays a lot of minutes – 32 or more in six straight games.

Young, though, has turned the ball over 30 times in eight games compared to 16 turnovers for Shamet in nine games.

Young does have an edge in assists (70 to 39) and steals (18 to eight).

Regardless of the numbers, though, the Young-Shamet matchup is an intriguing game within an intriguing game. OU has made obvious strides from a down season in 2016-17, one that followed a Final Four appearance the previous season sparked by Buddy Hield.

Wichita State is ranked No. 3 in the country and Shamet is clearly the best player on the team. As more and more people see him, Shamet’s notoriety will grow. He’s a great player on a great team.

Trae Young will likely be the first name mentioned on Saturday’s ESPN 2 broadcast. Shamet’s name could well be the one the broadcasters talk about last.​

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