A fantastic fourth NBA season concluded earlier this spring for Trae Young. Despite some hiccups in the first round against the Miami Heat’s rangy, physical defense, Young’s fourth year may have been his finest yet. He made his second All-Star appearance and last week, was selected as an All-NBA Third Team honoree. Across 76 regular season outings, the 23-year-old averaged 28.4 points, 9.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds on 60.3 percent true shooting.
As a superstar point guard, Young recognizes the internal rigors of the limelight and pressures associated with being a franchise pillar. They initially manifested when he starred during his lone collegiate season at Oklahoma en route to an All-American selection.
In aim to provide resources for others dealing with mental health struggles, the Trae Young Family Foundation was enacted in 2019. On behalf of Trident, Dime caught up with Young to discuss how he navigates the ebbs and flows of mental health, what this NBA season taught him and the next steps ahead on his hoops journey.
What have you learned during your life about the importance of mental health?
Yeah, I mean, obviously, for me, it’s been more about basketball. And it really started in college and going through a season where it was up and down, and felt like the whole country loved you. And then, the whole country hated you at the same time. Just because of basketball and being 18, 19, going through that, I really had to think about my mental health, and it was really messing with me at times. So going into the league, that was a big focus of mine, when starting my foundation on what I would focus and emphasize on and so that was the reason.
With your foundation, did you want to provide an outlet for people to have somewhere to go to that could help with their mental health?
Yeah. 100 percent. So, I mean, you hit the nail on the head, that’s the reason why, and that was a focus for me after just going through that experience. And yeah, just now, people are obviously talking about it more since COVID and these last couple of years, but that was the focus for my foundation from day one.
When you feel your mental health slipping, what sort of habits do you practice to try and address that?
I really just try to focus on thinking positive as much as I can with anything, And then also seeing my friends or my close family, like just being around my circle, I think also helps me in just being positive and helped me with when there are down times, and things like that. So, I think those are important for me.
What do you consider the the mission or the objective of your family foundation? What is it that you want to accomplish?
Really, just focus on the mental health side of everybody and try to force the positivity out there. To let people know that if they are going through things that it’s okay to speak up and talk to somebody about it. I’ve had people I’ve talked to throughout the last couple of years that helped me throughout things. So I think it’s okay to let the people know that. For other people to see me from a distance and think that everything may always be good to understand that sometimes it’s not. I think it’s just shows people that they can speak out too.
Who are some people who helped you feel more comfortable speaking up and what did they do to make you feel like it’s, OK that you don’t have to put up the facade?
I think first person who really helped me was my college coach, Coach (Lon) Kruger. He helped me, as far as just seeing the mental health side. Just seeing me throughout that season struggling sometimes, and helping me and guiding me to the right people. He really helped me.
What did you think exactly was key for you with your relationship in that regard?
He was around me every day. We were playing games, and we’re winning and doing good. And then, obviously seeing the struggling times. He was just around and he guided me to a person who helped me and somebody who I still talk to to this day. And I appreciate him for that.
Is it the correct assessment that it was like the first prolonged period of consistent inconsistencies for you as a player and team?
Yeah. And it’s on a bigger stage. When every game is the headline of college basketball, it’s a big stage. Being a freshman trying to lead a team to the championship, It’s a big thing and a big stage. With good things comes bad things, too. So I think I just had to go through it. And it’s made me a better person today.
I just remember watching some games on ESPN and they had like a Trae Young Tracker or something like that.
Yeah, there would be games that weren’t even mine and they were putting my stats on it.
I can imagine that’s quite the burden to bear, both positively and negatively, at such a young age. This year, what do feel like you learned about your game and what do you hope to really address this offseason to help lead your team back to where you were a year ago and even further?
I think it’s been a great year. Obviously, we didn’t finish as far as we did last year, but I think with what we went through this year, with the injuries and guys being out, I think just seeing how he fought to the end, it was good to see. And then obviously, next year, we don’t know what it’s going to bring. So, I’m just happy that the season ended with guys fighting.
Yeah, for sure. You went up against a really talented Miami team with one of the best defenses in the league. What did what did that series teach you about your game in areas where like you already excel or areas that you want to you address moving forward?
The Heat had a really good team. They had the personnel to switch everything And I think we just ran into a tough matchup. … I think the front office, and everybody’s, talking about making some moves. But I don’t know what’s going to happen this offseason. But just understanding that we got to get a higher seed going into next year is the main focus point.
What do you take from that series that you kind of allow to influence your offseason training like, ‘Oh, I gotta get better at this? Or maybe they kind of exploited a certain part of my game here.’ Like, where do you kind of let the those games influence how you approach this offseason, if at all?
They just did a good job of not letting me get into the paint. And I mean, a big part of my game is being in the pick-and-roll and getting into the paint. When they’re switching everything, you’re not really able to get into pick-and-roll games. They just had a great, great defensive scheme. It’s more about just now figuring out how, if they’re going to be switching, still find ways to get into the paint and make plays for myself and for others. They just did a good job. You gotta give them credit.
Where do you kind of feel like you made the most strides individually this season?
I think really just being consistent with just my play, and and really just being better in efficiency. I’ve gotten better in that (every) year, so just continuing to be better in my efficiency. I think that was good to see this year.