That wasn’t Billy Joel, Elton John or Stevie Wonder dressed in black coat, white shirt, jeans and black shoes and sitting in front of a black grand piano under a spotlight at center court of Allen Fieldhouse on Friday night.
No, on this occasion, the Late Night in the Phog performing artist was 6-foot-9 freshman basketball forward Carlton Bragg, who played a medley of songs for 15,500 adoring fans who actually swayed and sang along with the Bill Withers number, “Lean on Me.”
“I would say John Legend,” Bragg said with a smile, asked who his music most resembles.
“Ha ha ... I can’t play as good as him. I’m learning,” added Bragg, who credited a friend on campus named “Chance” for teaching him his assortment of tunes.
“I don’t sing. If I could sing, that would have been really amazing,” added the Cleveland native, who insisted he was “nervous, really nervous.”
About 45 minutes after his performance, Bragg calmly hit a 12-foot jump shot and finished a reverse alley-oop dunk off a pass from Devonté Graham in his Crimson team’s 36-31 scrimmage victory over the Blue squad.
“He can’t read music, but he can play by ear, which is a pretty good gift to have,” KU coach Bill Self said. “I told him he should do that (perform at Late Night) when I heard him play over in South Korea (in free time at World University Games). I didn’t know he was that good. He did a nice job. That was a lot of pressure. He has a great disposition. He’s going to be a fan favorite.”
He’s also not going to be at KU four years, Self said, noting the NBA is in Bragg’s future.
“He’s going to be able to go (to pros early). You can’t tell by that. That was awful tonight,” Self said of the sloppy scrimmage which was led by Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor, who had 12 and nine points, respectively. Svi Mykhailiuk had eight. “Carlton can shoot it, pass it. He’s going to be strong. He’s a good athlete, has size, length and great feel. There’s nothing I think that kid won’t be able to do in a couple years here.”
Wayne Selden Jr. 2-7 0-0 5, Devonté Graham 1-3 0-0 2, Svi Mykhailiuk 3-5 0-0 8, Jamari Traylor 4-5 0-0 9, Landen Lucas 1-1 0-0 2, Frank Mason III 1-2 0-0 2, Evan Manning 1-1 0-0 2, Cheick Diallo 0-0 0-0 0, Carlton Bragg 2-5 0-1 4, Clay Young 1-2 0-0 2, Hunter Mickelson 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 16-31 1-2 36.
Frank Mason III 2-6 1-1 6, Cheick Diallo 1-3 0-0 2, Brannen Greene 1-3 0-0 2, Perry Ellis 5-6 0-0 12, Hunter Mickelson 2-3 0-0 4, Wayne Selden Jr. 0-0 0-0 0, Lagerald Vick 0-0 0-0 0, Devonté Graham 0-1 0-0 0, Tyler Self 1-1 0-0 3, Clay Young 1-1 0-0 2, Landen Lucas 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 13-24 1-1 31.
Three-pointers: Crimson 3-12 (Selden 1-5, Mykhailiuk 2-4, Graham 0-2, Mason 0-1); Blue 4-9 (Ellis 2-2, Mason 1-3, Greene 0-2, Self 1-1, Graham 0-1). Rebounds: Crimson 13 (Lucas 4, Bragg 3, Selden 2, Young, Mickelson, Graham, Team); Blue 14 (Mickelson 5, Greene 4, Mason, Diallo, Vick, Lucas, Team). Assists: Crimson 8 (Selden 4, Graham 2, Mykhailiuk, Lucas); Blue 8 (Mason 4, Mickelson, Vick, Graham, Self). Turnovers: Crimson 3 (Mykhailiuk, Bragg 2); Blue 10 (Vick 3, Diallo 2, Mickelson 2, Greene, Ellis, Self). Blocks: Crimson 0; Blue 2 (Diallo, Mickelson). Steals: Crimson 7 (Graham 3, Selden 2, Bragg 2); Blue 3 (Self 3).
Note: The official Late Night box score provided is inaccurate. Several players were listed playing for both teams and that did not occur. This is the night’s official box score.
The highlight of the night — hoops-wise — might not have come in the 15-minute scrimmage, but when staff member Brennan Bechard hit a halfcourt shot to win $10,000 for Jerrod Martin Castro, a KU sophomore from Topeka. Castro in a promotion had the option of shooting himself or letting anyone in the building shoot from midcourt. Former KU player Bechard came through and swished his second of two official attempts.
Former KU player Darnell Jackson missed a pair of halfcourt shots when trying to win $10,000 for a female contestant. KU coach Self wrote Castro a check from his own bank account on the spot after Bechard and Castro hugged and the Jayhawk players mobbed both in a dogpile on the court.
“I see him shoot them in all the time,” Self said of ex-Jayhawk player Bechard. “He, Tyler (Self) and Evan (Manning) are by far the best halfcourt shooters we have. They have contests after every practice. I guess if you are going to be known for something, I guess making a halfcourt shot after practice is OK to be known for. Brennan ... I’d pick him every time,” Self added, noting, “I was happy for Jerrod. That’s why we did it to hopefully give someone a fun night.”
Earlier, Self caused the fieldhouse to erupt in applause when he told the fans in a speech: “We cut down nets in 2008. We got real close in ’12. We’ve not been back to the Final Four for three years. Guys ... if things fall right, this could be our year. Rock Chalk!”
In the scrimmage, freshman forward Cheick Diallo put down a pair of dunks, including one off a strong drive down the lane.
“He’s strong, athletic, a very good player. He’s going to be special,” Bragg said.
Noted Self: “He didn’t play very well. Cheick has so much to learn, and it’s fine if you screw up. The way he screwed up was just by not playing, trying to do stuff he’s not ready to do. He gets the rebound, he will never be a guy to go coast to coast, at least right now. He knows.”
Bridges honored: A moment of silence was held at 8:07 p.m. for former KU All-America forward Bill Bridges, who died recently following a bout with cancer. A spotlight was directed to Bridges’ jersey banner 32 in the south rafters.
Recruits: Five top senior high school basketball prospects walked through the northwest tunnel and sat behind the home team’s bench approximately 8 p.m.
The blue-chip seniors at Late Night: No. 2-ranked (by Rivals.com) Harry Giles, 6-10, Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Virginia; No. 5 De’Aaron Fox, 6-3, Cypress Lakes High, Katy, Texas; No. 6 Malik Monk, 6-4, Bentonville (Arkansas) High; No. 16 Marques Bolden, 6-10, DeSoto (Texas) High; and No. 34 Schnider Herard, 6-10, Prestonwood Christian Academy, Plano, Texas.
Fox, who has visited LSU and Louisville, will attend next Friday’s Big Blue Madness at Kentucky. According to Zagsblog.com, he has eliminated Arizona and will choose a college shortly after the Kentucky visit.
“That’s the goal, it’s a feel thing for him,” Fox’s coach, Emmanuel Olatunbosun, told Zagsblog.com. “He’s not going to draw it out if he doesn’t have to.”
Top juniors at Late Night: Michael Porter, 6-8, from Tolton Catholic in Columbia, Missouri, who is ranked No. 3 in the Class of 2017; No. 19 Jeremiah Tilmon, 6-10, from East St. Louis High; No. 26-rated Trae Young, 6-1, from Norman (Oklahoma) North, No. 37 Mitchell Ballock, 6-4, from Eudora High; No 73 Chaundee Brown, 6-5, from First Academy in Orlando, Florida and No. 141 Wyatt Wilkes, 6-8, from Winter Park (Florida) High.
Filling it up: The fieldhouse was basically full for Late Night, with just a few seats available in the corners. The doors opened for students at 4:30 p.m.
The students walked briskly through their normal northeast corner entrance. Reporters didn’t notice any incidents, but some students complained on Twitter about being shoved and pushed.
There was some confusion initially as thousands of students sat lower level, east side. They were supposed to sit in the areas they normally sit in at games. After thousands were seated, ushers directed them to a section above the northwest tunnel. At least a couple students were upset on Twitter concerning the switch. The north end zone was reserved seating for current KU student-athletes. Students not on KU teams sat in the south end zone.
The fans watched the Royals game on the video board, erupting in joy after the final out of a series-tying ALDS win over the Astros.
Tidbits: KU football coach David Beaty spoke to the crowd, praising both Self and women’s coach Brandon Schneider. ...
... Former KU forward Markieff Morris of the Phoenix Suns and ESPN’s Jay Bilas spoke via video on the center scoreboard about KU’s tradition and Allen Fieldhouse. ... Self took part in a couple of taped skits, playing Bill Self KU basketball coach vs. Bill Self nerdy graduate assistant at KU. ...
... There was dancing and lip-synching by the KU players, Evan Manning and Hunter Mickelson lip-synching to “Boot Scootin Boogie.”
— See what people were saying about Late Night during our live coverage.