Carlton Bragg Jr. heard from a few Kentucky fans on Twitter last year after stumbling over his words a bit when announcing his college choice.
“(Some said) I should have gone there and it was a mistake. Some said, ‘everybody makes mistakes. Just learn from it,’’’ Bragg, Kansas University’s 6-foot-9 freshman forward from Cleveland reflected on Thursday.
On Jan. 8, 2015, in a ceremony in his Villa Angela St. Joseph High gym, Bragg placed a KU hat on his head and declared, “Next year I’ll be playing at the University of Kentucky.” He immediately covered his face with his hands and quickly corrected, “Kansas. I’m sorry.”
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self meets with media members to discuss Saturday's home game against Kentucky, and how the Jayhawks will handle that matchup, in the midst of the brutal Big 12.
No harm. No foul. In fact, at the end of a news conference, Bragg was given a chance to repeat the start of his signing ceremony.
“Next year I’ll be playing college basketball for the University of Kansas,” he said, smiling, the proceedings recorded for posterity.
Currently Bragg, who also had Illinois as one of his three finalists, prepares to actually play against Kentucky in a 6 p.m., tip, Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse.
“It was close, very close,” he said of his decision to pick KU over UK. “I think it (UK) was very good. It just wasn’t a great fit for me.”
Both teams enter with 16-4 records.
“Coming out of conference, having this big game, the two winningest programs (in college hoops) going head-to head. This is what the college game is all about,” Bragg said.
“Coach (Bill Self) says it’s just another game on the schedule. It can’t hurt us. All it can do is help us going (back) into conference play and actually going into the (NCAA) tournament. It’s actually a big game for us.”
Bragg realizes Kentucky has great athleticism and the ability to block shots.
“They are great with it, pretty good with the blocking (116 to KU’s 81), but I don’t think it’ll stop us,” Bragg said.
Bragg — he averages 4.6 points and 2.8 boards in 10.6 minutes per contest — said he’s satisfied with the way things have gone this season.
“I’m just playing my role, seeing coach’s vision. He knows more than me,” Bragg said. “I’m just being patient, waiting my turn. When he plays me he plays me.”
He’s learned some things while watching.
“When Hunter (Mickelson) was starting, Landen ... seeing what they do from the starting tipoff, going hard, boxing out, the little things. That’s what I focus on,” Bragg said.
Mickelson hurts ankle: KU senior forward Mickelson is questionable for Saturday’s game.
“Hunter is hurt right now. He got a high ankle sprain yesterday out there (at practice), and was having a great day, and so we don’t even know his availability moving forward,” Self said. “He’ll be a day-to-day guy maybe for the next week or so. We don’t know yet. A lot depends on how he reacts to treatment.”
Asked about Mickelson’s declining playing time (two minutes in last three games), Self said: “It’s not so much about going with experience as it is just going with guys that in that particular moment or that situation it’s best for the other four guys to play with, and a lot of times that lends itself to experience.”
The rules: There will be a halftime ceremony involving Dr. James Naismith’s original rules of basketball Saturday. KU grad David Booth, who purchased the rules at auction for $4.3 million, will formally present the rules to KU officials. Naismith’s grandson, Jim, will attend.
Asked about ESPN’s GameDay being in town, Self added: “I just don’t know how you could bring in anything and make it bigger, like we’re doing something with the original rules on Saturday, which is a big deal, but trust me, that (GameDay) isn’t going to get our guys more jacked...”
KU is currently constructing the 32,000-square foot DeBruce Center to house the rules.