With Bragg gone, where will the Jayhawks look to fill his role?


Kansas sophomore Carlton Bragg Jr. throws down a dunk prior to Friday's game at TCU in the Jayhawks' Big 12 opener.

Kansas sophomore Carlton Bragg Jr. throws down a dunk prior to Friday's game at TCU in the Jayhawks' Big 12 opener. by Nick Krug

Now that it’s all over, it’s hard to believe that the Carlton Bragg Jr. era in Kansas basketball will go down as an experiment.

But that’s exactly what it was.

Despite earning high praise throughout his prep career and becoming another in a long line of McDonald’s All-Americans to join the Jayhawks, Bragg’s two years in Lawrence were mostly about unfilled potential and missed opportunities.

As a freshman, when he showed promise and seemed to be smiling all the time, Bragg went into games with little pressure and often gave the Jayhawks solid minutes when he was on the floor.

Playing him then was not much of a gamble for the Jayhawks, but on a veteran team with so much talent in the front court, there really was no need for Bragg to be a big time player.

That all changed during his sophomore season, when the Cleveland native was in perfect position to pick up the slack left by Perry Ellis’ departure but could never get it done, mentally or physically, off the court or on.

Bragg’s entire sophomore season was a mess and he rarely — if ever — looked like the kind of player many expected and hoped he would be.

That reality, along with his inability to deliver when the pressure was on — and, really, even when it wasn’t — led to today and Bragg’s decision to leave KU for a fresh start.

It’s a good decision. And it will benefit both sides. While Bragg gets a chance to start over at a program that no doubt will be excited about his physical tools, wherever that may be, Kansas gets his scholarship back and can add another body in the 2017 recruiting class.

Already with combo guard Marcus Garrett and Oak Hill big man Billy Preston in the mix, the Jayhawks now can address both need and desire with the remaining spots.

KU coach Bill Self said the other night that he’d like to add another ball handler for insurance at the guard position and a quick-twitch 4 man to back up Preston.

That was before Bragg’s scholarship was available. Now, with another offer to hand out if Self so chooses (and as long as Josh Jackson declares for the NBA Draft) the Jayhawks can double up on either position and take the best available player out there, be that a high school senior or a college transfer.

By quick-twitch 4 man, Self is talking about a player who owns everything that everyone thought Bragg had and everything former KU stud Kevin Young did have.

If Self could find a Kevin Young type of player, he would almost immediately have some kind of role and impact on next year’s team.

The extra energy, toughness inside and ability to keep up with the fast pace set by KU’s talented backcourt would be an absolute bonus and a nice change from what Bragg offered on the floor.

There are others who have filled this role in recent years, with Jamari Traylor, Cheick Diallo and even Thomas Robinson (before his monster junior season) also fitting that description while playing a supporting role.

Whether Self can find a guy like Young, Traylor, Robinson or Diallo at this point in the process remains to be seen. And with the spring signing period beginning next Wednesday, it seems more likely that such a player would come via the graduate transfer route that delivered Tarik Black a couple of years back.

Here are a couple of names worth familiarizing yourselves with as Self and his assistants scan the country for a player who could fill this role.

• Jeremiah Tilmon, 6-foot-10, 235-pound center from East St. Louis, Ill., recently requested his release from Illinois, where he committed last July. With the coaching change to Brad Underwood, Tilmon, a 5-star prospect and the No. 25-ranked player in the 2017 class according to, reconsidered his commitment and, given that he had Kansas on his list initially, may eventually be on the Jayhawks’ radar again.

• Shakur Juiston, 6-foot-7, 215-pound prospect from Hutchinson Community College has been on KU’s radar for a while and, according to 247 Sports, he received an offer from Kansas on March 6. In fact, Matt Scott of, reported earlier today that Self and KU assistant Norm Roberts paid Juiston a visit today.

There are, of course, many more names that might surface in the coming days and weeks, as the Jayhawks look to finalize their 2017 class and set their roster entering the offseason.

Stay tuned...


Pius Waldman 1 year, 2 months ago

Lets hope Graham realizes what a strong senior year would do to help his future. It appears there will be at least 4 openings. Duval needs to make a commitment so Self knows what to recruit. Most believe he is Duke player so no need to wait until he commits. KU needs bigs that can score maybe what we have now OK but need others to compete. Preston looks like he enjoys outside play more than post play.

John Brazelton 1 year, 2 months ago

Well, Keegan, you should be proud of yourself!!!

Alan Dickey 1 year, 2 months ago

If Graham comes back, I don't think we need anyone else:

C - Udoka Azubuike / So. / 7-0 / 280;
PF - Billy Preston / Fr. / 6-10 / 230 (Rivals #8);
SF - Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk / Sr. / 6-8 / 205;
SG - LaGerald Vick / Jr. / 6-5 / 175;
PG - Devonte Graham / Sr. / 6-2 / 185;

C - Dwight Coleby / RS-Sr. / 6-9 / 240;
PF - Mitch Lightfoot / So. / 6-8 / 210;
SF - Sam Cunliffe / RS-So. / 6-6 / 190 (Rivals #36) (ASU transfer; eligible 12/2017);
SG - Malik Newman / RS-So / 6-3 / 190 (Rivals #8) (Miss. St. transfer);
PG - Marcus Garrett / Fr. / 6-5 / 180 (Rivals #37)

John Fitzgerald 1 year, 2 months ago

I agree. If Graham and Svi stay and we add anyone else it might almost be too much depth. But, if we can bring in Duval and another big guy I wouldn't even be mad. Also, I'm guessing Newman is going to be the starting SG. He's a much better scorer than Vick. An I'm guessing Graham and Newman will share the PG role like Mason and Graham did.

John Strayer 1 year, 2 months ago

Malik is gonna be hard to keep out of the starting line-up...he was a primary KU target coming out of high school, but followed his family's leanings by choosing Miss St. Now that he's here we'll see how he shapes up. I think he was starting as a freshman at Miss least for most games.

Matt Tait 1 year, 2 months ago

Yep. Malik's definitely a starter. The coaches love him and think he could be among the best scorers in the Big 12 next season.

Mo Golany 1 year, 2 months ago

More like Vick fills in for Josh and Mailk steps in for Frank. You know Self is tough on some Freshman Preston will have to earn that starting spot. I would love this starting 5 though!

PG Devonte Graham SG Malik Newman SF Legerald Vick SF Svi Mykhailiuk C Udoka Azibuke

Bench C - Dwight Coleby PF - Mitch Lightfoot SF - Sam Cunliffe PF - Billy Preston PG - Marcus Garrett

Alan Dickey 1 year, 2 months ago

I agree that Preston will need to earn a spot, but assume that Self will facilitate that if he does not want to go fairly small again with the PF spot.

My main skepticism about having Graham, Newman, and Vick all starting and/or playing extended minutes at the same time is that this would mean that Garrett would be the ONLY player available to provide backup at the PG and SG spots. That may necessarily be the case if Graham declares, but if he comes back, I assume that either Newman or Vick will start and the other will come off the bench (hopefully with extended minutes and good impact).

Doug Clark 1 year, 2 months ago

Did I miss something, I haven't heard any mention of Evan Maxwell (I think that was his name) who transferred in, is he not with the team anymore? Help me out here.

Tom Keegan 1 year, 2 months ago

He left the program at the end of the semester and was not sure at that time that he was going to continue playing basketball.

Michael Maris 1 year, 2 months ago

Jeremiah Tilmon is my choice to fill Braggs roster spot. He's got size and weight to man the front court.

Caden Ford 1 year, 2 months ago

Shakur is the real deal! He had a great season at HCC this year (Including a National Championship and MVP honors of the Tournament) He would definitely bring energy and excitement that KU loves!

Ryan Zimmerman 1 year, 2 months ago

Tillmon is trending high on crystal ball for Mizzou... WTF are they doing over there? Getting all these recruits. Sounds like "Blue Chips" all over again

Eliott Reeder 1 year, 2 months ago

Why not Coleby to start at the 4? Didn't he play the 4 at Miss St? Wasn't that his position until this year when we needed him to back up Landen out of necessity? I like his game and think he is a very smart player with a knack for being in the right spot. Not sure he has the speed to guard smaller 4s, but I like this line-up:

Graham/ Garrett, Newman/ Cunliffe, Svi/Lagerald, Coleby/ Preston, Azubuike/ Azubuike

I guess perhaps we still need Coleby to play the 5 behind AZ. We need a back-up center!!! Jeremiah Tilmon come on down! Get Hudy-ized!

Chad Smith 1 year, 2 months ago

I'll say it until I'm Jayhawk Blue in the face. Self wants the high low game. That's his bread and butter. He played 4 guards because Bragg couldn't provide consistent minutes and run the high-low action with Landon.

Starting 5 should be (and this is assuming Preston listens, beefs up and works hard as Self will expect of him and Graham returns, which I fully expect given he's a late 2nd round as it stands right now in the draft.)

C Udoka F Preston F Svi G Newman G Graham

Bench: Coleby Lightfoot Vick Cunliffe Garrett That's a good top 10. If we can add a couple more pieces that can develop that would be great. And while I don't think Preston will be as versatile a 2 way player as Jackson was, I think you will see him be a big time player for us and maybe win another Big 12 Freshman of the year for KU.

Doug Clark 1 year, 2 months ago

Thanks for the info on Maxwell, Tom Keegan.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 2 months ago

Shakur is the quick twitch 4 Coach is talking about.

It absolutely stinks that CMartin is at mizzoo now and likely to pull them out of the abyss.

Steve Zimmerman 1 year, 2 months ago

``` Dedric, K.J. Lawson to transfer out of Memphis

By Rob DausterApr 5, 2017, 2:47 PM EDT

Memphis basketball and Tubby Smith suffered a brutal blow on Wednesday when the Lawson brothers announced that they will be transferring out of the program.

“We are born and raised in Memphis and love the city with all our hearts,” Dedric and K.J. said in a statement signed by the pair. “However, we must do what is best for our future, our dreams and our family. So we plan to transfer.”

Dedric is a sophomore forward that averaged 19.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists this season. He would have been a borderline preseason all-american if he was eligible to play this year. K.J., a redshirt freshman, averaged 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds.

The pair will now be the most sought-after transfers on the market this offseason. It’s worth noting here that their father, Keelon Lawson, was on staff at Memphis — he was hired by Josh Pastner in order to get the brothers to commit — and will reportedly no longer be on staff after this season. The Lawson also have two younger brothers that are five-star prospects in the Class of 2019 and 2021, respectively.

So if you’re a high-major coach with an opening on your staff, you might to give Keelon a call. ```

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