Friday, March 11, 2016


Tom Keegan: Carlton Bragg following Perry Ellis’ development path

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) comes in to celebrate with guard Devonte' Graham after Graham finished off a lob jam during the first half, Friday, March 11, 2016 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) comes in to celebrate with guard Devonte' Graham after Graham finished off a lob jam during the first half, Friday, March 11, 2016 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.


— Nobody who saw Perry Ellis blossom at the Big 12 Tournament three years ago is surprised that he is on the brink of winning tourney Most Outstanding Player honors if Kansas University can take the crown Saturday night at Sprint Center.

Ellis scored 20 points, leading Kansas to a 70-66, fall-from-way-ahead victory Friday night against Baylor, a day after scoring 21 in a blowout victory against Kansas State. 

College basketball wasn’t always as easy as Ellis, a McDonald’s All-American from Wichita, has made it look lately. For stretches during his freshman season, he looked lost, not unlike current freshman forward Carlton Bragg Jr.

Then the Big 12 Tournament hit in 2013 and Ellis looked like he belonged, averaging 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in the three victories. Bragg, whose college career likely will last two or three years and and not four, is having his coming out party on the same Sprint Center floor as Ellis did three years ago.

Bragg had just one double-figures scoring output, 10 points at home vs. TCU, during the regular season. Now he has three.

Bragg fouled out in 11 minutes and scored 12 points in Thursday’s blowout victory against Kansas State and followed that with 10 points, seven rebounds and four fouls in 10 minutes against Baylor. That’s 22 points in 21 minutes. Not bad for a freshman.

Bragg’s big back-to-back games made Ellis look back a few years.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Self, Graham and Ellis discuss KU's semifinal win over Baylor

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, as well as players Devonté Graham and Perry Ellis, answer questions from the media following the Jayhawks' 70-66 win over Baylor in the Big 12 semifinals, in Kansas City, Mo.

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“Oh, man, it was great,” Ellis said of his first Big 12 postseason. “I remember playing with a lot of confidence. That was probably when I first started playing with a lot of confidence. I remember the crowd cheering my name and it just kind of pushed me forward and made me confident in myself.”

All 10 of Bragg’s points came in seven second-half minutes.

“I definitely see that with Carlton,” Ellis said of the Big 12 tourney growing the freshman’s confidence. “He’s playing great. He’s going to be a great player. He just needs to keep that same attitude.”

A McDonald’s All-American, Bragg has had trouble cracking the rotation, but coach Bill Self is showing more trust in him, even though his defensive development lags far behind his scoring value.

Self brought Bragg to the podium after the K-State game and joked it might have been the first time he had given that sort of exposure to player who had just finished a game without getting a single rebound.

Even when he’s drawing laughs, there is a coaching purpose behind Self’s words.

“I took that personally and came in here today and tried to get as many rebounds as possible,” said Bragg, who had seven boards. “I was kind of looking at coach, saying, ‘Yeah!’ Even though he’s joking, I still take it personally. When he says stuff, I want to prove him wrong.”

Two of his points came when Devonté Graham threw a long-distance lob on the fast break. Graham looks for Bragg in multiple spots on the floor. Bragg made two threes in the Big 12 tourney opener and has a lethal mid-range shot.

“Carlton’s always been able to do that,” Graham said of scoring at a rapid rate. “He does that in practice a lot. He’s had confidence in practice, knocking down shots. We’ve just been telling him if you’re wide open, shoot the ball. Just let it ride. He knocked ‘em down and that’s a good confidence boost for him.”

Bragg said several teammates shared with him tales of their struggles as freshmen, told him to be patient and as the year progressed, told him to look to shoot more in games.

“In practice I was shooting and making it consistently,” Bragg said. “Coming into the games, especially coming into this tournament, Jamari told me, ‘Let it fly. Just be yourself.’ So I did.”

It’s working out for him and the team. His scoring punch off the bench will come in handy during the tournament.

“I’m having the time of my life,” Bragg said. “We’re winning. We’re playing great basketball and I’m getting a lot of minutes.”

Bragg will get more minutes if he can figure out how to defend better, and if guards lending quick hands can mask his deficiencies at that end.

Making it clear he was not singling out Bragg, rather talking about all post players, Graham explained how guards can help.

“We have to start clogging the paint up more,” Graham said. “We can’t just leave him down there on an island. We can’t let the post man take four or five dribbles to a spin move and lay a ball up. Somebody has to come steal the ball from him if he’s making all those moves.”

Keeping Bragg’s scoring punch on the floor will help to motivate the guards to camouflage defensive flaws shared by most freshmen.

— See what people were saying about KU's semifinal victory during's live coverage

More news and notes from KU’s Big 12 semifinal victory

By the Numbers: Kansas 70, Baylor 66

By the Numbers: Kansas 70, Baylor 66


Nathan Scholl 6 years, 5 months ago

This seems like the hungriest, most well informed Kansas team heading into the NCAA tournament I've seen in a long time. Rock Chalk!! Keep the appetite for winning intelligently and have fun!

Danny Hernandez 6 years, 5 months ago

Man, if Bragg and Diallo can learn the defensive part of the game, they're going to be lethal! I'm not worried about their offense, that will come. It's the D they need to learn. Diallo would be so much further ahead if the NCAA hadn't screwed him over

Harlan Hobbs 6 years, 5 months ago

Absolutely, Danny. Until he was certified as eligible by the NCAA, Cheick's main thought had to be "am I going to lose my freshman year?"

By all accounts, his attitude has been stellar throughout the ordeal and subsequent low amount of playing time, so I hope that he will use the situation to return next year and meet the challenge of showing everybody what he is capable of. Not only would it be good for KU, but it will pay huge dividends for him down the road. More than anything, I want him to realize his dreams to the maximum.

As for Carlton, I like him more and more every day. His attitude, competitiveness, and coachability are at the top of the charts. I doubt that we will have him for 4 years like Perry, but if we do, look out! He has all the skills to be a first team All American some day.

Eliott Reeder 6 years, 5 months ago

Bragg has a great stroke and will only get better with other aspects of his game as he puts on muscle. Diablo will take more time. Diallo's MVP accolades from the McD's and Adidas games were due to hustle and little else. When you are the only guy in that all-star type of game that is really hustling you are bound to look great and get lots of boards, blocks, and run-outs. At this level and the next, you can't get by on hustle alone. I think he will develop his b-ball acumen over time and be great though!

Dirk Medema 6 years, 5 months ago

"Even when he’s drawing laughs, there is a coaching purpose behind Self’s words."

Always, and arguably Coach's greatest attribute.

“I took that personally and came in here today and tried to get as many rebounds as possible,” said Bragg, who had seven boards. “When he says stuff, I want to prove him wrong.”

That is a little funny. Carlton thinks he's proving Coach wrong, when in fact he's proving Coach RIGHT. Coach is prodding him with the knowledge that a 4 can and should get R's, and he is absolutely right. It took an extra game, but Bragg indeed proved Coach RIGHT.

Just like with the G's not settling for low turnover games, he is going to prod them into attacking which ultimately results in greater results from the team. Coaching at this level goes far beyond the X's & O's and is why we are so fortunate to have the master.

Justin Kruse 6 years, 5 months ago

I think next season without Perry we'll see what a critical role he played for us. With that being said, I definitely see Carlton stepping up and filling in. I love his positive attitude and hope he has a stellar sophomore season! We've got a few games to win this year first, though. Rock Chalk!

Margaret Schadler 6 years, 5 months ago

Wish the NCAA would learn from their mistakes and speed their processing up. They don't have to go back to kindergarten.

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