The first NCAA Tournament game in Columbia since 1970 brought at least one famous fan.
Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, who is second in scoring among NBA rookies, was on the front row Friday afternoon to watch his former team, ninth-seeed Oklahoma beat eighth-seeded Ole Miss 95-72.
“The team didn’t know I was coming,” Young said. “Some of the coaches knew.”
Young’s former teammates spotted him on the sideline halfway through the first half, sophomore Read Streller said.
“We saw him over on the sideline and we were like, ‘Alright, let’s go, let’s get after it,’” Streller said. “It was sweet having him back and being able to celebrate with him.
Young did not address the Sooners before the game but planned to talk to his former teammates after the game.
“To see where’s he’s at right now and for him to come back and watch us meant a lot,” Oklahoma’s Jamal Bieniemy said.
Young led the nation in scoring (27.4 points) and assists (8.7) in his one season at Oklahoma last year.
“I hated getting switched onto him in practice,” Streller said. “You knew he was going to give you a bucket, but it was fun, too.”
Young, the No. 5 pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, is averaging 18.5 points per game this year. He made the three-hour drive to Columbia after the Hawks practice Friday morning. The Hawks play Philadelphia on Saturday night in Atlanta.
In the second game of the day, former Virginia star Ralph Sampson, a three-time collegiate player of the year and the No. 1 pick in the 1983 NBA Draft, was in Colonial Life to see the Cavaliers.