Saturday, June 27, 2015

Self-improvement Bragg’s priority

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.


The first thing that stands out about Carlton Bragg, the McDonald’s All-American out of Cleveland in his freshman season for the Kansas University basketball team, is his height.

Unlike most college basketball players, Bragg appears taller on the court than in the program, which lists him at 6-foot-9.

“Everyone tells me I look taller in person,” Bragg said after KU’s Friday night exhibition victory against Canada.

Bragg thinks he knows why he hears that so much.

“I continued growing throughout high school and I’m like 6-10, 6-11,” he said.

When he attempts to establish position inside, he can look like a player whose body hasn’t quite caught up with his growth spurt. He’s a little too vertical and too easy for older, stronger players to shove across the lane, as was the case vs. Canada.

“It’s getting there,” Bragg said of his body tolerating the growth. “The hardest part about it is having knee pains. Playing through the pain. I’m still icing them.”

It’s possible Bragg hasn’t stopped growing.

“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s a good question. I’ll keep you updated though.”

Polite, personable, eager to please. That’s always subject to change once the hero worship hits him in big doses and the recruiters for agents try to fill his head with notions of getting to the NBA as quickly as possible and making not getting hurt the primary goal of college basketball. Clearly a sharp thinker, Bragg is more equipped to see through all the nonsense and make self-improvement a priority over self-adoration. He already understands that playing well against college basketball players is tougher than it looks on television.

Bragg answered quickly when asked if any Kansas player is far better than he thought he looked on TV.

“Perry Ellis. Perry Ellis,” Bragg repeated. “I didn’t know he was that good, that strong, that quick. Watching him on TV you know he’s competitive, but playing against him is a lot tougher. And he’s a great guy in the locker room.”

As for what makes Ellis difficult to guard, Bragg said, “His quickness, his strength, his mobility, everything. Everything about him is strong. And he’s real good in the locker room too. He’s helped me a lot in the weight room, telling me to do extra reps.”

The second thing that stands out about the long-armed, slender Bragg, is how comfortable he looks shooting jumpshots with such smooth mechanics. His soft touch from the perimeter commands respect from the defense. But pay too much attention to his scoring ability and he’ll instantly find the open man on the inside, as he did setting up Jamari Traylor with a beautiful feed in the first game. He also brings considerable dribbling skills for a man so young and so tall.

Look for Kansas to run with regularity pick-and-pop plays to utilize Bragg’s soft perimeter touch.

“Pick and pop, that’s my shot,” Bragg said. “I get mad when I miss it because I work on it every day. Elbow jumper. It doesn’t matter if anyone’s in front of me. I just stay in rhythm.”

His height, high release and the lift he gets on his jumper make the shot so difficult to block. Knowing that, Bragg doesn’t let a defender’s presence force him to bypass the shot or shoot it too quickly. Guarded or unguarded, Bragg looks the same shooting.

At the moment, Bragg has a more developed perimeter game than in the post and he’s not in denial about that.

“My strength,” he said when asked where he needs to make the most improvement. “A lot of people say I’m strong. A lot of people say I’m not strong. I take it as I’m not strong at all. And people try to take advantage of that.”

In some ways, Bragg recalls Rudy Gay as a freshman at UConn, when he averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds a game. In other ways, Horace Grant in his early years at Clemson is a decent comparison.

Like most freshmen, Bragg won’t be able to turn his considerable potential into production on a nightly basis, but on those nights it clicks, he’ll be a load to defend.

He and the rest of the Jayhawks are fortunate to have had the extra practices in advance of the trip to Korea, as well as the games vs. international competition.

How soon will Bragg develop into a good basketball player?

“I think it’ll be quick,” Ellis predicted after the first exhibition vs. Canada. “I really like his game. He was out there hustling. He played a great game. Real skilled also. Bright future for him.”


Popy Suthiwan 6 years, 10 months ago

Bragg has a good motor and competitive fire. He definitely leaves it all out on the court. Just from looking at his tape online, really needs to work on defensive strength and footwork. Gets beat inside a little too often against guys his size or bigger than him. Overall though, love his talent and athleticism. Maybe two good years with Hudy and some precautionary measures on those knees, especially if he's still in that growth spurt, he could be a solid first round pick or maybe lottery by his junior season. Has serious potential and upside. That smooth J of his will make him standout from other Bigs. Here's to a solid freshman campaign Braggs! RCJH

Michael Sillman 6 years, 10 months ago

A couple inches of height on Bragg would really raise his ceiling, to use a bad pun. 6-8 or 6-9 guys are a dime a dozen in college and a penny a dozen in the NBA.

At 6-8 or 6-9, you better be pretty quick and have not just a good but a great outside shot to go with a good handle.

Part of Alexander's problem might be that at 6-8, his high school power game does not translate to D-1 much less the NBA. Thomas Robinson is a much more imposing specimen and it is becoming likely that he will only be a journeyman NBA player. To have a shot, Alexander will need to dramatically improve his jump shot and ball handling.

If Bragg turns out to 6-11 or even 7 plus, with his sweet shot, he'll really be something. At that height, he starts to resemble Nowitzki. Take good care of those knees and keep growing.

Shannon Gustafson 6 years, 10 months ago

It's funny because while watching these two games against Canada I kept telling my wife that Bragg looks much taller than he's listed and that he reminded me of Embiid at the start of last year from his build and the way he moved down the floor (though Bragg has a different skill set than Embiid). I also noted he was significantly taller than Perry when he was standing next to him for the national anthem. If he's truly 6'10 or taller I wouldn't be surprised. I can't imagine how great he'll be if he's going to continue working as well.

I said very similar things about Bragg and his shot and the difficulty in blocking it in a comment Friday night.

I would be shocked if he's here as a Junior. He looks like a guy that would be borderline to leave after 1 year if he got big minutes but since he's going to struggle to get big minutes (unless he figures it out real quick) I'd say he'll have a similar jump like TRob did from Soph to Jr year. By that I mean a good roll player with upper classmen getting most of his minutes this year and be a stud next year and then be a lottery pick. I doubt he'll average 17 and 12 or whatever TRob did but I wouldn't be surprised by 12 & 8 or something next year for Bragg. If he gets much stronger and learns how to work with his back to the basket this year, he'll be unstoppable next year because the outside game is already there.

Can you tell I really liked what I saw out of Bragg against Canada?

John Randall 6 years, 10 months ago

This year is another example of HCBS not letting Rivals,etc. do the scouting strictly on stats. The first cut for KU recruiting is attitude and character – then comes consideration of athleticism, talent and b-ball IQ. A lot of MacD's types don't even get a sniff from KU scouts and coaches, which avoids lots of problems and disappointments.

Harlan Hobbs 6 years, 10 months ago

A very poignant comment, John. Carlton Bragg seems like a "gem" for the program, and I selfishly (no pun intended) hope to see him in a Jayhawk uniform for more than one year.

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 10 months ago

I think the talent ahead of him will be enough to limit his play so that he will be here at least a couple of years. Plus I hope the Cliff Alexander example is something he takes to heart. If Cliff had stayed another year I truly believe he would have been at least a first round draft pick.

Has the NCAA finally made a decision in Alexander's case? I realize it's a moot point but the NCAA usually comes to some sort of resolution a.k.a. Reggie Bush.

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 10 months ago

A few more inches certainly won't hurt Carlton. A 6'9" PF it is certainly tall enough but at 6'10" or even 6'11" it will really boost his draft position. Plus it looks like he has a really good motor and character judging solely from what I've read and the videos I've seen. I can't help but think that this kid will end up being a major contributor and definitely not an OAD.

I have the feeling that it will be hard to keep Bragg out of the starting lineup as the season progresses. Even if he doesn't crack the starting lineup, it will only push those in front of him to work that much harder.

I wonder how many careers have been ruined by "recruiters for agents try to fill his head with notions of getting to the NBA as quickly as possible and making not getting hurt the primary goal of college basketball".

Tom Jones 6 years, 10 months ago

It won't be hard to keep him out of the starting lineup at all, actually. He's got a senior first team all conference player in front of him.

That said, he's a great pickup and is going to shine as a sub this year and a starter next year after we lose our whole interior.

Humpy Helsel 6 years, 10 months ago

When I saw him at the game Friday night, it was like, "who dat?" Carlton Bragg looked much taller than 6'9", and more like 6'11". He is listed the same height as Cliff was last year, and he looks much taller than Cliff to me. Right now, and it is very early, the player he most reminds me of is Darrell Arthur from 08.

Rodney Pain 6 years, 10 months ago

Bragg looked the same height as Landen Lucas when posing in his team picture. If you really believe that Lucas is 6-10 then I guess Bragg is two but I think they both might be exaggerating a little. Either way I'm way less concerned about how tall they are and am more concerned with how strong they are. Lucas was getting pushed around by much smaller guys in the exhibition games. Bragg needs to get stronger too.

Darwin Dandy 6 years, 10 months ago

Just hope mentally he is ready for the banging that will go on the paint because FIBA refs let the players get a lot more physical than here in the US with college refs. Loving the stroke he has from the 15 ft. spot.

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