Thursday, February 25, 2016

Diallo, Bragg impress despite limited minutes

Kansas players Carlton Bragg Jr., Cheick Diallo, and Jamari Traylor celebrate a bucket by the Jayhawks late during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas players Carlton Bragg Jr., Cheick Diallo, and Jamari Traylor celebrate a bucket by the Jayhawks late during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.


Kansas University freshmen forwards Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg Jr., who entered college as McDonald’s All-Americans ranked Nos. 5 and 21 nationally by, have averaged 6.3 and 7.3 minutes a game respectively in Big 12 play.

Bragg has been used in all 15 games for the (24-4, 12-3) Jayhawks, while Diallo has played in all but one league contest.

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Their conference-only numbers — 3.3 ppg and 1.9 rpg for Bragg and 1.4 ppg and 2.2 rpg for Diallo — won’t put them on any 2015-16 Diaper Dandy awards lists, but have not disappointed coach Bill Self in any way.

“Those guys are going to get the last laugh on everybody. It’s just going to take a little time,” Self said Thursday. “People forget that the reason that the Morris twins started (2008-09 as freshmen) is because we didn’t have anybody else. Marcus had to and Markieff was our first guy off the bench.

“People forget that Thomas Robinson averaged eight minutes a game as a freshman. But he had three lottery picks playing in front of him. And then Thomas finished second (for) national Player of the Year,” Self added. “People forget Jeff Withey was the sixth best big man we had when he got here and he’s second in all-time blocked shots in the NCAA Tournament. People develop at different stages, but for people to say that we don’t play freshmen, that’s the most ridiculous (thing). Other than Kentucky, who started more freshmen than we have?”

The only thing that’s held Bragg and Diallo back, Self said, is the fact seniors Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor, junior Landen Lucas and when healthy, senior Hunter Mickelson, have been effective players, too.

“On this particular team and this particular case, it’s been better to have experience out there because even though there’s great talent, the inexperience probably would affect us winning games right now,” Self said. “They are working hard. They have great attitudes. I hate it when people make something more out of it than what it is. It’s just how your team has evolved as the year has gone on. Every team does that.”

Diallo and Bragg still are regarded as NBA prospects. Diallo is listed as the 31st pick of this June’s NBA Draft according to ESPN’s Chad Ford, while Bragg is not listed as a first-round possibility. has Diallo the first pick of the second round and Bragg not listed at all.

“Our attitudes have been great. And that’s hard to be when you have highly-recruited kids. You can’t keep everybody happy,” Self said. “ You recruit guys and sometimes it doesn’t go exactly as scripted because if it went exactly as scripted, then all 13 guys would be lottery picks and play in the league. So much of it is timing. But I’m real pleased and proud of how our guys have hung in there and been really, really, really together and unselfish for the most part and been there when their number is called.”

Of KU’s other scholarship freshman, guard Lagerald Vick, who is not in the regular rotation, Self said: “Lagerald hasn’t gotten much clock at all, but Lagerald is going to be a really good player. But I can’t say that he’s better than Svi (Mykhailiuk) or Brannen (Greene). But potentially, he’s got a chance to be really good, and Cheick and Carlton, I think are going to be great. But the thing that has been important for us is this team also has to win. It’s such a balancing deal because you want to do what’s best for the kids, but on the flipside, what’s best for the kids is playing the guys that are the best for our team.”

Junior Lucas said the freshmen have been great at practice.

“They push us. When the older guys want to get complacent and a little lazy they are always going hard,” Lucas said. “It keeps us on our toes, keeps us working hard. It’s great. We’re going to need them in a game so they just have to stay positive because there’s going to be a time where maybe matchups or foul trouble happens and they can come in and provide a boost. They’ve kept a great attitude and it’s really something I admire.”

It’s only natural players want significant minutes.

“Myself I’ve gone through moments where I felt the same way. I know it’s even bigger for them because of the expectations they came in with. I can imagine it being hard, but we’re part of something that’s so big,” Lucas said. “Trying to keep them focused that even if they come in and make one small play, if it’s helping a team that’s doing some big things, that’s huge and they should really enjoy that.”

Caucus conflict: KU coach Self was asked about an online petition at trying to change the game time of the KU-Iowa State game (3 p.m., March 5) because it conflicts with the Kansas Caucus.

“I am not aware of that, but I don’t think that ESPN is going to say, ‘Let’s do this for those reasons,’” Self said. “I think there’s always conflict with something going on, regardless of when you schedule it. I guess we could schedule a game and then NASCAR could have something, too, or we could schedule a game and the Chiefs could be in an NFL playoff game. There’s a lot of things, or there’s something going on with the theater or whatever. Certainly that’s very important what’s going on from obviously a political standpoint, but I can’t see that will get moved. I think it’s fascinating, everything that’s going on (politically). It’s disappointing it’s the same time, I guess. But I think that we’ll both live and it won’t be too negative for either one of us.”


Pius Waldman 6 years, 2 months ago

Reading between the lines one might think Coach Self is aware of some that say he doesn't play the 5 star freshman very much as he likes his experienced players to have the major minutes. Honestly he has much success so hard to be critical of his decisions. But I suspect other schools might help recruits be aware of that situation. The problem as I see it his bigs are hard to say so and so is much better than another so and so. I am a little surprised that Mickelson hardly gets playing time yet he was the star at Korea. The freshman at times gets benched quickly when they make a mistake. Maybe they are so afraid to make a mistake that they make mistakes and get the pine job. I hope sometime he will when a future game is well decided let them play more minutes.

Len Shaffer 6 years, 2 months ago

I wonder if we know the true extent of Mickelson's injury. He was playing quite a bit before he got hurt, and now he hardly plays at all, so he could be much more hurt than they're telling us. We do know he's not 100%.

One thing I wish Self would do more is play younger players when the game has already been decided. I think in general he plays the regulars for too long, and I'm nervous that someone could get hurt before the tournament. But in general you can't argue with the success of his rotations over the years.

Dale Rogers 6 years, 2 months ago

Mickelson reportedly has a high ankle sprain, which is debilitating when trying to make the moves these guys have to make. It also is something that is slow to fully heal. The other day an article said he is improving but not yet 100 percent. This kind of injury is easy to aggravate so you don't want to push it. You just have to wait it out and let it heal fully. A healthy Mickelson is better for the team down the road than an 80% Mickelson now.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 6 years, 2 months ago

These are the guys who will be starting next year to make a record tying 13 conference championships!

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 2 months ago

Going for a second straight NCAA title would sound so much better...

Steve Macy 6 years, 2 months ago

At the very least KU will have three starters back for next year, quite probably four. I am not worried about the garish playing time, earn it. I always refer back to Cole. Little used until needed on the tourney, then a star the next year. RCJH

Steve Macy 6 years, 2 months ago

garish? Freshmen is what I meant, fat fingers and an I phone don't always work that well together.

Len Shaffer 6 years, 2 months ago

I think to some of those players, the lack of playing time may seem garish!

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 2 months ago

Cole is a good example. I believe both of these players (Bragg and Diallo) have far more potential than Cole did but HCBS was still able to make Cole a lottery pick. I wonder how many other coaches could have done that?

I just hope both players realize the benefits of staying another year. I'm pretty sure that Bragg does but I can already imagine agents have been working on Diallo to jump next year. We would have an amazing frontcourt if both players stay.

Jerry Walker 6 years, 2 months ago

Nice article about the future of big men, Diallo and Bragg.

And here's a little "looking back" and wondering "what if".

2010/11--What if Aldrich had returned for his SR year to play alongside the Morii and a blossoming TRob? They went 35-3 and lost in the Reg. Finals.

2011/12--What if the Morii had returned for their SR seasons to anchor the front line in TRobs breakout JR year? They went 32-7 and lost in Nat. Final.

2012/13--What if TRob had returned for his SR year to play alongside Withey, the shot blocking monster? They went 31-6 and lost in Reg. Semis.

These three squads could have been a real serious contender to break UCLA's all-time winning streak of 88 straight wins. Oh well, I'm not complaining...just a trip down memory lane and what might have been.

Len Shaffer 6 years, 2 months ago

The problem with that kind of theorizing is that it doesn't exist in a vacuum. If those guys had returned, that would mean it's likely that other teams would have had players returning as well. Imagine if UK had had Anthony Davis for four years instead of one (not to mention all the other UK one-and-doners).

Marius Rowlanski 6 years, 2 months ago

Yes, but even that doesn't exist in a vacuum. If Anthony Davis had stayed at UK for four years, how would it have affected the other UK OADs? There just isn't any possible way of answering all the "what ifs".

Humpy Helsel 6 years, 2 months ago

You come to Kansas, you more than likely have to wait your turn, unless your name is Wiggins, or as it turned out completely unexpected, Embiid. All of the roster changes over the past 12 seasons, I guess one could argue the process has worked pretty well. Next year this time, Coach will be talking about how he has to back off practice time to give Diallo and Bragg, and the others, more rest.

Cameron Cederlind 6 years, 2 months ago

Or Kelly Oubre, Ben McLemore, Xavier Henry, Josh Selby, Tyshawn Taylor, Marcus Morris, Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Julian Wright, etc

Mike Greer 6 years, 2 months ago

None of these guys got the playing time as freshmen that Wiggens and Embiid did, nor were they as successful in their NBA draft lotteries. Selby isn't even still active. Rush shopped his status every year he was at KU. Even most of the guys that left early shared a lot of minutes that freshman year.

Chad Smith 6 years, 2 months ago

I wouldn't worry about minutes for either of those guys. And they will both be back next season. Bragg stated early on after he committed that he wasn't looking to be one and done. And diallo will probably look at evaluation, be told he's not a guaranteed 1st rounder and return to improve scoring, dunking and rebounding.

Glen Miller 6 years, 2 months ago

In all honesty, if a recruit doesn't want to work hard and earn his minutes...... I really wouldn't want him at our school anyways. KU is a TEAM, not an AAU circuit. You have to guard. You have to rebound. You have to know where you are supposed to be. Coach expects you to perform when you get on the court and kids that don't work or think they should just be given the nod wouldn't make it here too long anyways. I will take the Mason's, Graham's, Lucas's, Withey's, Russ Rob's and the likes. Those are the type players you build winning teams around, not someone who will just be here for a year and leave based off of talent and minimal results. Wiggins and Embiid were great and I loved their time here, but those guys were willing to work and put in the time. Many top young guns just go through the motions....

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 2 months ago


I'm really happy Ben Simmons does not attend Kansas. The guy puts up nice offensive numbers but never guards anyone every-time I've seen him on TV. Additionally, I hear from from LSU friends of my son that he never attends class. I'll take OADs like Wiggins, Embiid and a lesser extent Oubre all day long over guys like Simmons or even Alexander.

Charles Copeland 6 years, 2 months ago

Have y'all been watching the same KU team I have??? When have we been so far ahead or dominated a team to justify playing these guys more?

Layne Pierce 6 years, 2 months ago

It's been great to see this team develop, and the development of the freshmen was hurt by Diallo, having to wait so long to get experience ,because of the irresponsible behavior of the NCAA.

I look for us to run more next year, because both Diallo and Bragg can get up and down the court, and that would give them both more space to work in. Don't forget that Azubuike is no slouch either, and you have Coleby, and Lucas back, so there's still plenty of competition, we may even get Bolden, so slackers need not apply.

Next year is going to be a dogfight, Green, Svi, or somebody else, or Bragg in Perry's spot. Or do we change the whole look of the team? Stay tuned. Same Hawk time, Same Hawk Nation.

Edward Daub 6 years, 2 months ago

In the picture, Jamari is teaching Diallo and Bragg how to sing "Who let the dogs out"?

Harlan Hobbs 6 years, 2 months ago

Woof, Woof, Ed. Nice post. Same goes for you, Glen.

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