Trae Young's career is soaring, but his feet appear to remain firmly planted on the ground
Candice Young cried when she heard that her son’s money was retiring more than $1 million in medical debt for hundreds of Georgia families.
“She cries about a lot of stuff, so she certainly cried about that,” Rayford Young said of his wife.
Can’t blame her. Who wouldn’t be proud, knowing your 21-year-old son is making such an impact?
“With kids, you always wonder what they listen to growing up,” Candice Young said. “It’s been exciting to see how he’s carried through with this and understands how everybody is part of this journey.”
Trae Young’s journey continues Friday night, when his Atlanta Hawks play the Thunder.
The last time Trae Young came home to play in Chesapeake Arena, November 2018, the jury was out on his NBA stardom. Young was 22 games into his NBA career. He was averaging 15.9 points a game and shooting 25.4%t from 3-point range. The Atlanta Hawks had traded away Luka Doncic to build around Young.
Fourteen months later, Young comes home an NBA all-star. He was announced Thursday as an Eastern Conference starter for the Feb. 16 All-Star Game. Young is averaging 29.2 points and 8.6 assists per game, while shooting 37.3% on 3-pointers.
Young always has displayed flair on the court — with Norman North, with OU, with the Hawks — but has displayed restraint off the court. When other high school phenoms jumped high schools or moved off to prep schools, Young stayed in his hometown. When other five-star recruits migrated to Kentucky or Duke or Kansas, Young became a Sooner, changing only zip codes.
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Young seemed to appreciate his roots. He seems to appreciate them still.
“That definitely comes from the way our family is as a whole, and how we treat each other, and how we expect each other to be,” Candice Young said. “It starts in our home, and I’m glad it’s carried over. Just to be mindful of the people he comes into contact with every day, or the people he doesn’t come into contact with but can have an impact on. He understands how important his role can be.”
That came to fruition two weeks ago when RIP Medical Debt announced Young’s $10,000 donation, through his foundation, that wiped out more than $1.05 million in medical debt for 570 families.
The effect on those families is great. Spreading the word about a non-profit like RIP Medical Debt might be even greater.
The organization uses donated funds to purchase debt that has been sold at pennies on the dollar to collection agencies. Those agencies try to recoup whatever they can get from families that incurred the medical expenses.
RIP Medical Debt spokesman Daniel Lempert said that in general, every $1 donated relieves $100 worth of medical debt.
To qualify for RIP Medical Debt help, people must earn less than twice the federal poverty level, be in financial hardship or be facing insolvency.
Lempert said his organization conducts a lot of campaigns with all sorts of people, “but this was our first foray with a major athlete, so there certainly was exposure in a space we hadn’t been in before.”
Rayford Young first heard of RIP Medical Debt through his job in medical equipment sales.
“There were a lot of these patients that couldn’t afford my balloons and stents,” Rayford Young said. “They either owed the hospital money or just couldn’t afford it.
“I knew about it through my dad as well. Dad had a lot of sicknesses and collections. Trae remembers that.”
The Youngs long have encouraged their son to give back to the communities that have helped him. Trae has donated significantly to Norman Public Schools and to the Boys & Girls Club of Atlanta. His parents have given him a list of potential charities; RIP Medical Debt was on the list and caught Trae’s eye.
“That’s been one of the things throughout this process, being able to give back, and the doors this opens for him is so incredible,” Candice Young said. “Not only for him, but for our family. We’ve been able to do so many things.
“We try to put some things in front of him, let him make the decision where he wants to go with things. We definitely talk about it all and we figure out what he’s most passionate about. It’s just a great opportunity and platform for him to give back.”
Give back, Trae Young has. And now he’s coming back, this time as an NBA superstar whose career is soaring but who appears to have both feet planted firmly on the ground.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at oklahoman.com/berrytramel.