Kansas sophomore Ochai Agbaji impressed with KU freshmen during early portion of summer workouts


Kansas newcomer Christian Braun drives past Kansas guard Marcus Garrett during a scrimmage on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas newcomer Christian Braun drives past Kansas guard Marcus Garrett during a scrimmage on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Kansas sophomore Ochai Agbaji had the rare advantage of a little history with one of the Jayhawks’ four incoming freshmen at his disposal when the newcomers reported to campus in June.

But that did not keep Christian Braun from surprising his former AAU teammate — both played for MoKan Elite before joining the Jayhawks — during the first few weeks of pickup games and camp scrimmages.

“He’s really tough,” Agbaji said of Braun, the 6-foot-6, versatile guard from nearby Blue Valley Northwest High. “That’s what I’ve learned. Just playing with him for (a few weeks) now, he’s tough. He doesn’t back down.”

While Braun’s game is built on that blue-collar vibe, the Gatorade Player of the Year in Kansas for the 2018-19 season can do much more than hustle.

His jump shot, which comes as the result of great elevation and perfect technique at the top, could become a real weapon for a KU team in need of outside shooting, and his vision, athleticism and fearless demeanor already have allowed Braun to prove he belongs.

Never was that more obvious than during the first camp scrimmage game, when Braun, giving up three inches and about 45 pounds, dug in and did his best to guard KU big man Silvio De Sousa in the post.

“He’s always stepping up to the challenge,” Agbaji said of Braun. “Whether it’s guarding Silvio in practice or whatever, I really like that about him.”

Braun’s attitude is indicative of that owned by KU's entire freshman class, a group of 4-star prospects who come in with something to prove and all the confidence in the world.

Point guard Mackey McBride is a worker. He runs drills at full speed every time and does not let a missed shot or bad step rattle him on the next rep. There’s little doubt that he’ll need some time to adjust fully to the college game, but McBride is a mature player with a no-nonsense approach.

Wing forward Tristan Enaruna is the definition of versatile. His demeanor is such that he never appears to be overwhelmed, and his length, athleticism and attitude allow him to find ways to fit in all over the floor. Enaruna has emphasized improving his jump shot this summer, but he has not let that keep him from attacking the rim whenever possible.

And then there’s Jalen Wilson, the latest addition of the bunch, who came to town firing. Three days after arriving in Lawrence after signing with Kansas, Wilson played in his first camp scrimmage and kept firing up shots. He didn’t make many of them, but his confidence never dipped and he continued to show that he’s comfortable out there and is just as happy to get others involved as he is hunting his own shots.

Like Agbaji with Braun, KU coach Bill Self lauded Wilson’s grit, as well.

“He gives us size, he gives us toughness and he gives us skill,” Self said of Wilson. “He just knows how to play. He’s a winner.”

Agbaji likes that about Wilson and all of the KU freshmen.

“I know they’re coming in with the mindset that they have to be aggressive,” the sophomore guard and candidate for national breakout player of the year said. “They know their roles and, whatever (those are) going to be, I think they’ll stick to it and that’s going to help our team.”


Brian Wilson 11 months ago

Since it is newsworthy that Agbaji is impressed maybe you should write an article that I too am impressed as well as many other KU fans. Summertime desperation blues is here.

Matt Tait 11 months ago

Agbaji's opinion carries far more weight since he actually competes with these guys and plays a significant role in whether KU wins or loses, which is, I presume, what you're interested in.

Thanks for reading and commenting. Always appreciated!

Brian Wilson 11 months ago

OK caught me. lol I'm just saying its the off season and i'm sure its hard to find things to write about.

How about a couple of back ground paragraphs on each of the new basketball recruits or football commits and what they think they bring to Lawrence? That could run over a couple of weeks and keep you busy.

Matt Tait 11 months ago

Appreciate the ideas and the feedback. Really do. We'll keep cranking out content on all things KU basketball and football and make sure to keep an eye on the rest of the athletic department, as well. Summer's not nearly as dull as it once was, which is both good and bad.

Tony Bandle 11 months ago

Random Thoughts:

1] With Dok, Silvio, Devon, Mitch, Marcus, Isaiah, Big Mac and even Ochai running interference, none of the newbies will be asked to carry a load not within their capabilities.

2] Let's hope Bill calms some of this site's posters and gives the frosh a chance to develop during the season, although with a veteran core of eight, PT will be a precious commodity.

3] Something about Braun strikes me as he is anything but "christian" on the hardwood...a trait I find truly excellent. Just look at the photo above. I think he'd run over his granny for a basket! [If I am not mistaken that appears to be All World Defensive Guard, Marcus Garrett, he is blowing by].

4] Some nickname suggestions..Mackey "The Knife" McBride, Tristan "In-Your-Face" Enaruna, Wailin' Jalen Wilson and "I'm Christian But I'm Bad' Braun.

5] All Muscle Squad: Dok, Big Mac, Silvio, Mitch and Isaiah, play a zone and dare anyone to cross mid court!

6] All Speed Squad: Devon, Marcus, Ochai, Tristan and Jalen, challenge everyone coming to Allen a race in the parking garage. :)

7] I am sorry "The Streak" is over but also, I'm glad as well. It was becoming a primary goal each season...the true primary goal is a National Championship. If you don't give that the highest priority, odds are, you'll never get there.

8] Any thoughts on which poster will come up with the most outrageous post this season?

9] My one wish is that the 2019-2020 Jayhawks mirror the USA Women's soccer team by matching up their team character.......RELENTLESS!!!

10] HAPPY 4th to all of you..thank you to all of you who served and saved our independence and please be careful out there on the road as well as in the yard with any fireworks.....remember, they are explosives!

Matt Tait 11 months ago

All interesting thoughts... Especially the 10th. Always a fun time of year and a great time to appreciate the many men and women who have served this country over the past few centuries.

Dirk Medema 11 months ago

When does this season begin? After last season ended? June? Late Night?

We’ve already had at least one comment calling for Coach Self to be fired and other irrational ramblings. Doesn’t get much more outrageous.

Dirk Medema 11 months ago

Matt - Thanks for the creativity and all the subtle bits about the team in between seasons. You spoil us and do a fine job being parental when we become entitled.

Matt Tait 11 months ago

Kind of you to say and much appreciated. I had to laugh when I read the last part, especially the word "parental." It hit a little close to home. I turned 41 last week!!!

Thanks again for the kind words. Glad you dig what we do and spent so much of your time being a part of our community.

We appreciate ALL OF YOU!!!

Sam Allen 11 months ago

Proud of him working hard. However, A coach AND ALL players should ALWAYS be aggressive--It is what is EXPECTED. (What if Mark Mangino aka the American Football version of John Calipari without a National Championship, ala w/OU were a basketball coach? He gives (he would give the team more energy and aggressiveness. (Bill self doesn't really get "in" to it (from what I have seen; at least over the past few years; such as jumping up and down like on a trampoline to urge his team. (even when he had our dominant teams. It is UNEXPECTED to look up to other players aggressiveness. If you're not aggressive gamely, do not play for us.

Ochai I love your attitude. That is what I (just as any other true KU basketball fan) want(s) to hear.

Scott Lippoldt 11 months ago

So, (parenthetically), what exactly are you trying to say here?

Dwayne Mudd 11 months ago

A Super Bowl Championship and a Natty this year? How unbelievable would that be? I can't wait!!!!

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