Saturday, July 25, 2015


Column: Games experience to benefit Bragg

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg, left, hits the floor for a loose ball with Canada guard Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson in the first-half of a Team USA exhibition game against Canada Tuesday, June 23, at the Sprint Center in K.C., MO.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg, left, hits the floor for a loose ball with Canada guard Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson in the first-half of a Team USA exhibition game against Canada Tuesday, June 23, at the Sprint Center in K.C., MO.


When the World University Games stretch of basketball started for Kansas University at Sprint Center with a pair of exhibitions vs. Canada, Carlton Bragg was getting tossed across the lane by a Canadian post player. No whistle. Hello basketball vs. men. Goodbye basketball vs. boys. By the end of the South Korean experience, Bragg was diving for loose balls, giving no thought to protecting his broken nose. It didn’t take him long to get the hang of it.

Those public lessons won’t be learned by most college basketball freshmen until November and won’t sink in until long after that. Advantage Kansas.

The trip that ended with the players wearing gold medals and having a much better understanding of another country’s culture will benefit them forever. And it definitely gives Kansas a head start on the basketball season.

Obviously, the experience of playing so well when the team relied so heavily on them will fuel the confidence of returning starters Frank Mason and Wayne Selden. But look to the front court to find the players who just might have benefited most from the experience, Bragg and center Hunter Mickelson.

Bragg, a 6-foot-9, 225-pound McDonald’s All-American ranked by Rivals No. 21 in the Class of 2015, sweats potential. He has a natural knack to find the open man, handles the ball well for a man his size, and has a very soft touch from the perimeter.

He also has spent most of his life playing against smaller, slower athletes who don’t have what it takes physically to keep up with him. Struggling with the transition to a completely different level of basketball with bigger, faster bodies than he’s used to facing is inevitable. He’s an extra step down the road of that transition, thanks to the summer practices and overseas game experience.

Another factor weighing in Bragg’s favor as he works on developing his skills, savvy and toughness has to do with the experience level of teammates. In recent years, he might have been thrown into situations for which he wasn’t ready and might then be viewed as a disappointment in the eyes of greedy spectators who want freshmen to perform like sophomores and juniors.

Not only will Bragg become better facing older players daily in practice, he won’t feel the weight of expectations to the degree other recent freshmen have. If he backs up Perry Ellis for 10 minutes a game and performs like one of the most talented backups in college basketball, nobody can complain. Anything he gives KU beyond that is a bonus.

Facing older, stronger athletes in the World University Games gave him the knowledge of how much stronger he needs to become and will enable him to push himself all the harder in the weight room.

In the case of Mickelson, his strong play in Asia surely gives himself and coach Bill Self more confidence that he belongs. If all goes well on the Cheick Diallo-eligibility front, the hope is he will get the majority of the minutes at center, but having a shot-blocker coming off the bench to slow down activity around the hoop won’t hurt. Diallo, Mickelson and Landen Lucas, a strong rebounder, makes for a nice three-headed center monster to complement high-scoring forwards and guards.

Self’s renewed faith in Mickelson showed in the minutes column of the World University Games cumulative statistics: Mickelson 138, Lucas 112, Traylor 95, Bragg 94.


Joe Ross 6 years, 3 months ago

RE: "Obviously, the experience of playing so well when the team relied so heavily on them will fuel the confidence of returning starters Frank Mason and Wayne Selden. But look to the front court to find the players who just might have benefited most from the experience, Bragg and center Hunter Mickelson."

Absolutely true. Tom is right on target here.

I would add one thing, however. Post play in college basketball is different than in international competition. American players are more gifted athletically, whereas international players depend on skill quite a bit more. So he will face a different style of play in the fall. Yet one may expect Bragg's shift to college basketball from international game play to go quite smoothly. For one thing, he showed the ability to adapt his game with surprising speed going from no experience at all to international play. Clearly, among the tools in Braggs skill set is the ability to acclimate himself naturally. Secondly, he has the confidence going into the season that few freshmen have and so he will begin in a different place than all other freshmen. And finally. if you look at the college landscape more broadly over the years, truly gifted players are like cream that rises to the top and they make the adjustment without much difficulty. There seem to be few hindrances to Bragg's making this transition easily. And with literally no pressure on him by virtue of the fact that there are dependable players in front of him, he can play with a clear head.

Everything said about Mickelson is right on.

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 3 months ago

There is a poll that comes to a completely different conclusion.

It seems that the VAST majority believe Selden and Mickelson benefited most from the experience and I completely agree with that conclusion. Selden was voted the overall best player at the games.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 3 months ago

I had to recheck the author a few times to make sure I was not seeing things. A readable, relevant, somewhat predictable column by TK, how refreshing.

I do agree with the points made and I think Bragg, Frank and especially Wayne benefitted the most. It will be interesting to see how it transfers and to what extent in the season but no real down side for these players at all.

However Perry Ellis did not shine at the WUG and if one door opens when another closes I hope we are not going to have to suffer watching Perry regress to a passive, inconsistent, weak inside player this year. Not much of a surprise in Korea with the increased contact and the way the games are called that it would be hard for him there, but we still expected better than what we saw right?

I would not have thought this before the WUG but maybe Perry and his team of advisors were on to something about thinking he had peaked at the college level and needed to move on to professional ball at the end of last year to further his development. His play certainly causes a concern that our "Captain" is going to get beat out for PT his senior season if he does not recover from the weak showing in Korea. My hope is that he can find his form we are much stronger team with him playing, well better than what we saw there. Too bad he missed most of the summer camps, he does well in those when no one tries to block your shot or play defense. Always been a confidence builder for him. Wishing Perry well for training camp and the upcoming season. If we could somehow find the player before his injury, that would be great, but that seems like winning the lottery at this low point right now.

well you can still hope --- Come on 7....

Greg Lux 6 years, 3 months ago

First I love Perry Ellis as much as any player on our team. I have watched Perry for 3+ years now and the one consistent problem with Perry is his "Hands". Perry just can't hold on to the ball. He has without a doubt the lightest grip on the basketball of anyone on the team. If he could just grip the basketball and go up with strength he would make most of those missed "bunnies". A stronger grip on the ball would keep him from getting it knocked loose so many times when he is moving through traffic. Please Perry work on that one facet of your game and I know you will be the player we all want and know you can be at Kansas.

Joe Ross 6 years, 3 months ago

If there's one thing thats consistent about Perry Ellis during his time at Kansas, its that he always finishes the season stronger than he started.

Think about his history going back to freshman year. Its always true.

We dont have too much to worry about with Perry. Theres enough talent on this team to carry us through the non-con. Look for the same stellar finish from Perry this year. He may even have a faster start by virtue of the competition this summer (the lack of a 6-7 month layoff; as it is now it will only be four months).

He might perhaps have his best season yet for a couple of reasons. 1. Hes been in college basketball so long that he has experience with how to operate in the post. 2. When you become a senior, obviously there is attrition of the talent across the college landscape versus when you were a freshman. Compared to everyone else, Perry is relatively better by virtue of the amount of time he's spent in college. And even the more talented big men younger than he lack his experience (number one, above). 3. The pressure will be taken off Ellis because of a more talented frontcourt this year compared to last. This should open up Perry quite a bit more. Even the play of the backcourt could potentially free him if they are able to stretch defenses with great outside shooting, which we should expect. 4. You have to think that knowing this is his last season, he's going to leave it all on the court, playing harder for both his legacy at Kansas and for his chances of making it to the NBA.

Ive seen enough of Ellis to know how his seasons start and

Rodney Crain 6 years, 3 months ago

with respect - 1. you would think he would, but how many times in the last 12 months has he missed bunnies and been blocked by driving to the basket? Way too many. He does not seem to play with experience to play savvy. Those drives in Korea, some of them isolation's, were tough to watch. It was like a car crash in slow motion. That panic play in the Russia game resulting in a terrible turn over at the worst time was not a senior play. 2. I agree you typically do not play worse with 3 years of experience, but it does not explain the benchings or the inconsistent play. 6 games under 10 points last season, 4 of those is big games. We know he has it in him. Can he find it? 3. I agree 100%. If Diallo stays healthy the entire offense will be better. He will command double teams if he gets going and if Perry can finish at the rim he might have a very nice year. That is an if.... 4. If you were talking about Traylor or if it was Seldens last year, emotional players, I would say you are correct. He plays very controlled. Now if he can find that place he went to before his injury then look out. That play was some of the best in the country at that time.

He will probably take too many shots, miss too many bunnies and still get his double digit scoring average. I am just not sure he will even be the 3rd best player on our team this season, his senior year. Diallo, Frank, Wayne seem 1,2,3 coming out of Korea.

Joe Joseph 6 years, 3 months ago

Not sure I understand the need to take digs at Perry, especially under this column that had virtually nothing to do with him.

Perry didn't play his best in Korea. We get it.

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 3 months ago

He was still listed as one of the three Kansas players voted to first-team honors at the WUGs but I agree that this article is nothing about Mr. Ellis. Perry's best skills are his preparation and footwork. I believe his biggest fault comes with finishing.

Of course this should be one of his best seasons. That's how it usually works with fourth year seniors. I see Perry having a successful professional career but most likely not in the NBA. Not quite big enough to be a PF and without the range and slashing ability to play the wing. He is however a very good college player and with his senior leadership, could be a key player in getting us back to the Final Four.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 3 months ago

Seemed to need balance Joe, not everyone benefited in Korea. I have never been a big supporter of Perry I always thought he could do better, and I was hoping his senior year he would show what he can do, he did not show that in Korea. Where was the senior leadership, the leading by example?

Mark Lindrud 6 years, 3 months ago

If we are discussing Perry, then the thing he needs to figure out is when to play down low and when to step outside and use his quickness. I am not saying his is an NBA prospect because I think he is too much of a tweener for the next level, but he cannot be a power forward consistently this next year, rather a stretch 4.

He needs to be more versatile this year, and utilize his teammates more. When we have a solid big man down low, Perry is much more effective. I really hope Diallo pans out this year because he will take a lot of pressure off of Perry, Jamari and Carlton.

Humpy Helsel 6 years, 3 months ago

Everyone seems to have their pet hypothesis about Perry. OK. Here is mine. I don't think Perry likes contact. It appears to me when he meets contact around the rim, he takes his eye off of the target and sneaks a peak at where the contact is coming from. The outcome is his missing so many shots around the basket. I think he more and more likes stepping out shooting from the jumper or even taking the three. At the next level, in the NBA or overseas, he'll being doing a lot of that anyway, but he still needs to be able to finish around the rim while getting banged. My scouting report on Perry would be to be very physical with him early and often. Interesting about the "hands" idea. Hadn't considered that. Not sure, but I'll pay more attention. At the end of the day, Perry is still a special player and a great kid who has become a man while at Kansas. Watching him play in Kansas City against Team Canada, you could really see the chiseled look of an athlete who has worked hard to develop his core. BTW, all of the talk about Hunter's emergence in Korea is warranted and welcome. But I thought Landen Lucas answered the bell and made a great showing as someone who is willing to rebound and bang. We need that. Oh, yea! The story was about Carlton Bragg. He was awesome!

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 3 months ago

Good post Humpy but I completely disagree with your comment about Landen Lucas. I really thought that he took a step backwards in Korea. Interesting how we all watch the exact same thing and come up with such different conclusions. What I find sad is how there are those who enjoy manipulating differing opinions into personal attacks.

Mark Lindrud 6 years, 3 months ago

I will have to disagree also about Lucas because I didn't see much physicality, and he can't hold onto the ball. I didn't like his body language when he lost minutes because it made me wonder what will happen when Diallo can play and Lucas will really have to fight for his minutes. Will he step up or fall?

Elias Dunlavy 6 years, 3 months ago

Landon Lucas drove me crazy watching him pout on the bench in Korea. When he did play, he rebounded the ball nicely but still would have a visible scowl every time he missed a shot or had a turnover....He needs to clean that up because its a detriment to the team to suck all the energy out of the room just because you aren't performing. This is a team game and if your on the bench or not playing your best then its your job to be the team leader in attaboys and high fives....Sometimes its those little things that separates good from great and contenders from champions.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 3 months ago

Landon had some really bad attitude around the game where he threw the opposing player to the court at the beginning of half time. He didn't play that 2nd half and didn't deserve even the limited minutes he got during the next game.

That being said, he seemed to have a big turn around for the last couple games. Granted, he wasn't setting the world (UG) on fire, but no one realistically should have that expectation of him. He did play well at the end of the WUG, which is what I'm expecting of him for the coming season (limited minutes as the 3rd C)and next year when Hunter graduates and he backs up Coleby or the next McD C recruit.

Humpy Helsel 6 years, 3 months ago

I sticking to my story. I agree with the bad vibe early in the series, but I think he recovered and had great minutes late. Time will tell.

Keep it civil Roddy. I know it is hard for you on that point. Let's work on our being positive skills. See the other posters. Different opinions from mine. Very civil. Come can do it. It is just fun and enjoyment. Reasonable people have different viewpoints.

Jaston Archie 6 years, 3 months ago

I have tried really hard to be positive and optimistic about Perry but I find it a futile effort. I don't understand why Self insists that Perry be more "aggressive" which only results in more missed shots and him attacking a stronger defender and shooting a bad shot instead of passing the ball. He has poor vision, I cannot recall a time when Perry attacked the basket and dished it to a wide open teammate, maybe because no team doubles him. Moreover, I agree that he loves to shoot the jump shot which he does make occasionally, but he will never be a consistent shooter with his technique. He shoots the ball before he reaches the peak of his liftoff. Even though Carlton missed a lot, I still trust his form to ultimately make that shot consistently. I think Perry and Jamari are the two players that make me cringe the most everytime they get the ball. Wayne did last year but he has definitely stepped up his level. I can live with Perry's bad games in the regular season but hopefully he brings his best in the tournament. KU fans really need to have higher expectations for the postseason bc I think we have really high expectations in the regular season but just hope for the best come March. To me, its final four or bust this year

Elias Dunlavy 6 years, 3 months ago

Perry is what he is at this point... What Perry really needs is a legit low post scorer next to him at the 5 to take some pressure off and not have the opposing teams tallest defender always hovering over him down low

Tom Jones 6 years, 3 months ago

Most teams would LOVE to have Perry Ellis on their roster.

Not some whiny, spoiled KU fans, though. Some will look for, even create chances to take shots at the guy, who is crimson and blue to the bone and a first team All-Conference player in one of the best conferences in America.

Good grief.

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 3 months ago

BIG 12 = Worst record from a major conference in 2015 NCAA.

Big East is the only major we beat in 2014 NCAA and calling them a major is a stretch.

Tom Jones 6 years, 2 months ago

The Big 12 was one of the best basketball conferences in America last year and are among the top 4/5 every year and anyone who follows college basketball for a living would tell you the same thing. Sorry, bro.

There's more to conference strength than a couple of fluke first round losses in the tournament.

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 2 months ago

"The Big 12 was one of the best basketball conferences in America last year and are among the top 4/5 every year"

There are ONLY 5 majors. 6 if you count the big LEAST. Being in the top 5 is AUTOMATIC. Hands down the DUMBEST post in memory!

Thanks for the laughs BRO! LMAO!

Tom Jones 6 years, 2 months ago

Still waiting for you to make a point, Marius.

Everyone who writes about college basketball had the Big 12 as one of the top 2 or 3 conferences last year and most had them the toughest. Perry Ellis was a first team all conference player.

Your argument is that all the writers were wrong and the Big 12 actually sucked because they had a few fluky early losses in the tournament.

Now whose post is dumb again?

Michael Bennett 6 years, 3 months ago

I feel like fans get frustrated because the way Self runs his system doesn't always fit with who Perry is as a player. No doubt he has shown he can produce as the focal point of the hi-low offense, but he also gets exposed by mismatches in the low post. I sometimes wonder how he would fit in with Hoiberg's ISU teams, in a Georges Niang-type role.

Mick Allen 6 years, 3 months ago

Perry is what he is and we should all except that. What he isn't is a young man who is an exceptional athlete from a running and jumping standpoint; not strong with the ball off the bounce or in attempting to get the ball off the board or in going up for a shot with contact. On defense he is not physical enough to guard a post up 4. What he is, is a face up scorer with a nice touch from 15' out to the 3 point line. His footwork facing the basket is very good and he can beat his defender off the bounce when he is strong with the ball. As a couple of posters have already opined, his offensive game will be greatly enhanced if Diallo turns out to be an offensive force at the 5. Perry is an adequate rebounder, once again when he is strong with the ball. He needs to move without the ball when Diallo gets doubled and find a space where he can receive the pass and take advantage of the double on Diallo. Hopefully Hunter will use the Games in Korea as a springboard to a productive year. When he is in the game at the 5, I think you'll see him as are most effective big man in making the dump down pass inside or kicking it out for the 3.Without question Perry will need to shoot it better than he did in Korea. Part of the cause of the low shooting percentage I think was the team emphasis on playing fast with the 24 second clock and this contributed to Perry's questionable shot selection at times. He needs to face up with the ball as he will never be a back to the basket scorer. If he can score 15 or 16 a game and grab 7 to 8 rebounds per game he will have done his job no matter how unsightly it appears at times. He is a great young man who is going to have a solid senior year.

Mick Allen 6 years, 3 months ago

We should all "accept" that, not "except" that as in just posted post.

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