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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Lucas blueprint the perfect plan for Bragg

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) and Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. secure a rebound from Oklahoma during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) and Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. secure a rebound from Oklahoma during the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

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When KU senior Landen Lucas was going through a bit of a funk earlier this season, he climbed his way out of it by narrowing his focus, emphasizing defense and rebounding, and then watched all other aspects of his game slowly come around.

The result? Lucas has recorded double-doubles in three of his first four Big 12 games this season and two weeks ago was called by KU coach Bill Self the team’s most consistent player.

Sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr. is mired in a funk similar to the one Lucas battled through to begin the season. But because the 6-foot-10 forward from Cleveland has spent most of his life dominating opponents and making headlines for his abilities on the offensive end of the floor, Bragg has not been able to follow the exact recipe that Lucas did to play his way through it.

“There's no question C.B. may say that's the way he thinks,” Self said. “But that's not in his core. He's always been a guy that scored the ball pretty easy and shot a lot of jumpers and those sorts of things, which is fine. There's nothing wrong with that.”

However, on a team loaded with offensive firepower and in need of another forward to both complement and relieve Lucas, Bragg’s best chance of making a meaningful impact from here on out may be dependent upon him finding a way to follow in Lucas’ footsteps.

Lucas sees Bragg trying to do just that.

“You (see it) every day in practice,” Lucas said. “Even if you really break it down and look at it in games, he’s doing the right things. His mindset’s in the right place.”

Bragg’s production — 6.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per game — does not always reveal Bragg’s best intentions and Self believes that may be more mental than anything. Caught out of place, off balance or out of position, Bragg has struggled with everything from finishing near the rim to rebounding above it. His biggest issue has seemed to be his hands, where, too often, he has bobbled loose balls or allowed opponents — occasionally even a teammate — to rip or poke the ball away from him.

“He has better hands than what he's shown,” Self said. “But, for the most part, we probably haven't done as much as what we should be doing in that area. I don't think his hands are bad, but I just think he loses focus.”

Often willing to remain upbeat and look from the calming, positive side of every situation, Lucas said he appreciated Bragg’s effort and desire to do the right thing.

“Not everybody has the mindset to do those things,” Lucas said of emphasizing defense and rebounding. “That’s just something I’ve kind of always had. There’s two steps to it. You’ve gotta, one, get the mindset, and, two, have it translate onto the court. It might be a little bit harder (for Bragg), but he’s definitely capable of doing it. He’s very talented. And, while he might be an offensive player, he definitely has the abilities to do the other things. Once he focuses on those things, the rest will come. I’ve always believed in that, especially as a big. All of a sudden, one game it’ll just start going well, whatever it may be is just gonna be in the past and everything will be a lot easier."

“I’ve gone through the same kind of stuff, so I can understand what he’s going through," Lucas continued. "If it is a slump, or whatever it is, he’s doing the hard part. He’s getting to where he needs to be. He’s getting his hands on the ball. You’d rather have him be in the spot and maybe miss a ball than not even be in the play at all. I think he’ll be able to change that around pretty quick.”

Comments

David Robinett 5 years, 5 months ago

From the headline, I was thinking you were going to talk about the four or five year plan for Bragg. And I still think the four-year plan would not be bad for him at all. He would really have a great game at the end of four years I expect.

Humpy Helsel 5 years, 5 months ago

I hear it coming out of Landen's mouth, and I hear it coming from Coach. I want to hear it come out of Carlton's mouth. That would be the words defense and rebounding. Long term, I do believe this is a good thing for him. Short term, I hope it comes quickly because we need the defense and rebounding from Carlton. The approach Landen is taking just simplifies the game and allows other parts of the game build off of a core focus. While Carlton works on this parts of his game, he may just learn to actually like contact.

Jay Scott 5 years, 5 months ago

Bragg and Lucas are as different as the Morrii and Aldrich, Darrell Arthur and Sasha Kaun, Raef LaFrentz and Scot Pollard. Defense and rebounding are great to focus on either way but Bragg is a different skill set. He's a 4, but he's closer to a small forward than a center. He's a huge talent. It's on Coach Self to get him untracked. I'm a huge Bill Self supporter but this is something that he has to show some real coaching finesse. Bragg playing to his potential is the difference between a Final 4 and a Sweet 16.

Ken Koonce 5 years, 5 months ago

Last game I saw Coach switch up and play Bragg and Lucas together with Bragg outside, he missed the one shot he took outside , but I think the staff was trying to get him going.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 5 months ago

Ripping or poking the ball away from Bragg is one thing but it's the pure butter hands ones that drive me crazy. The ball goes right through his hands on rebounds, passes and just plain ball handling. Rick Suttle was the last Kansas big that had such butter fingers.

Jerry Walker 5 years, 5 months ago

Makes me think of Tommie Smith...a teammate of Suttle.

That was before the 3point shot...but Tommie had a sweet jumper and could shoot from way downtown.

http://www.kuathletics.com/news/2013/11/7/MBB_1107133713.aspx

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 5 months ago

Smith was a phenomenal athlete for sure. Has Kansas ever had a 6th man like Smith? Seriously, I really don't think so. Geezz when Tommie came in the game it was like lightning striking. It wasn't just that he'd score or get steals or rebounds, it's very much the 'how' he did it.

However, he didn't have the Suttle butterfingers

Barry Weiss 5 years, 5 months ago

I still remember, like it was yesterday, him nailing a shot with maybe a second left, from the top of the key to pull out a win. We all went berserk. Good times.

Jerry Walker 5 years, 5 months ago

I didn't mean to infer that Tommie had "butterfingers". The mention of Suttle just reminded me of his teammate.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 5 months ago

Maybe not like Smith but we did have Steve Woodberry.

Robert Brock 5 years, 5 months ago

Bragg is just too much of a finesse-type player to function Self's way. He's soft and afraid of physical contact. Keep recruiting, Jayhawks.

Jay Scott 5 years, 5 months ago

This is almost as funny as your Josh Jackson to the D-League comment...

Gerry Butler 5 years, 5 months ago

Dam who the hell said that Jay? - - you referring to Robert? - -whoever it was that made that kind of statement know - - -absolutely NOTHING about Basketball.- - -Josh Jackson to D league lmao - -that's almost beyond funny

Gerry Butler 5 years, 5 months ago

umm, umm umm. Dam , - -- - - totally clueless, thanks for giving me heads up, - -explains a few things for me. - - All I can say is some people's light switch doesn't come on, but n this guy doesn't even have a switch to try and turn on

Brett McCabe 5 years, 5 months ago

If Carlton is going to get untracked, and I hope that he does, we are going to need him to do it tout de suit.

After completing the powder-puff part of the conference schedule - it almost couldn't have been any easier - we hit the Grind starting January 16 and ending February 18. It's about to get real and we are going to really need someone to step up on the inevitable night when Landen gets into foul trouble, or the 3's aren't falling or both.

Crunch time is coming and there is a big opportunity waiting for Carlton to completely change the narrative of his sophomore season.

Jay Scott 5 years, 5 months ago

Tout de suite? C'est francais, n'est ce pas? Pas mal...

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 5 months ago

Utinam omnes inde quam Latinae linguae tenere poteram.

Voir Jay, Brett arrive avec quelques bons commentaires. Me demande comment son cerveau malfuctioned dans d'autres domaines. Telles sont les épices de la vie.

Jay Scott 5 years, 5 months ago

Latin AND Francais. You're simply a superior being Suzi...we're not worthy.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 5 months ago

I learned Latin and all those other romantic languages fall in line. Once you know Latin it's just a matter of adjusting to a few vocabulary words.

Jay Scott 5 years, 5 months ago

I learned French growing up. I'm absorbing Spanish with an eye toward a Central America retirement.

Are you going to DC next week?

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 5 months ago

We have some friends that have retirement homes in Costa Rica. Amazing place. Yes we are going. I have a big project going.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 5 months ago

But unfortunately, watching the games could have been a little easier. There were a couple of times my frustration levels were hitting the "caution" line.

Michael Uphaus 5 years, 5 months ago

I could not have said it better myself Brett. That is exactly what Carlton needs to do, and KU needs him to do if they want to win not only the Big 12 but a Championship. I also agree with Jay in that Self needs to step up and get the most out of Bragg. These are the things that make you a Hall of Fame coach, motivating and inspiring Bragg to be the best he can be.

Rae Bricil 5 years, 5 months ago

once Bragg makes it through this funk/ development /paradigm shift he will be a much better and more well rounded player.

good news is that it seems he may not be headed to the pros after this year and will possibly be back at KU.

also, speaking of well rounded, and maybe someone has said this before or maybe i am way off but Jackson reminds Kawhi Leonard with all that he is able to do.

Barry Weiss 5 years, 5 months ago

I don't think there is even a remote chance he would be drafted at all, the way this year has gone for him. He can only improve his draft stock by coming back next year, and probably another one after that.

Rae Bricil 5 years, 5 months ago

Agreed with the way this year has gone. I was thinking that before this year started i thought he would be gone after this year. As for a senior year, at this point his trajectory is pointing that way, but at KU its seems people stock can rise awfully fast once things start to click.

Last year Bragg was in his comfortable spot--primarily shooting from the outside and was playing and not thinking. Now it seems he is learning a new role/existence on the court. Once he is more comfortable in this role and starts playing again i think he will be great. Hopefully he will be able to play a bit more inside as well as having that nice elbow jumper. He will be a serious threat.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 5 months ago

He would have to have a complete turnaround if he is to get drafted in the first round but if he does, then it could possibly be what makes us a final 4 contender. I know I've been harsh on his play but I see how much potential Bragg possesses. I remember watching him in the 2015 McDonald's All-American game and thinking what a difference he could make at Kansas.

Tony Bandle 5 years, 5 months ago

My half ass guess at the 2017/18 KU roster:

Bragg, Vick, Lightfoot, Coleby, Young, Preston, Newman, Garrett, Cunliffe and, yes, Graham plus at least one more big to join at a later date.

Tony Bandle 5 years, 5 months ago

Oh crap, I forgot AZU. I told you it was half ass!! :)

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 5 months ago

Not many bigs left leaving Dok as our only true rim protector. Going to need someone to play around 15 minutes per game or play small ball. Preston has the ability anywhere from the 2-4 and as you listed, plenty of talent in the back court.

Nick Kramer 5 years, 5 months ago

Just for a little statistical perspective --- points per minute, Bragg .40, Lucas .35. rebounds per minute, Bragg, .34 Lucas .33. Shooting % Lucas 62%, Bragg 52%. Since Lucas has a better ability to guard the other team's big man, Lucas gets the minutes and the stats that go with them. Focusing on defense doesn't make you better offensively, but it does get you on the floor. Hard to score from the bench.

Ken Koonce 5 years, 5 months ago

I doubt he has ever had to play the low post, he has grown a lot sense arriving. There's a large learning curve involved moving from 2 or 3 to 4 or 5. Give him time he will get better. I agree that he will be back next year his draft stock ha gone donw this year because of the move. Pumping weights over the summer will help him catch up with his growth spurt . I see him being a great big next year. He is a smart kid he will catch on.

Roger Ortega 5 years, 5 months ago

Anyone see the word "Coach" in Landen's future? What an intelligent young man.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 5 months ago

No, but I do see it in one of his teammates.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 5 months ago

Like your lineup for next year, Tony. It would be the "mother lode" if we have Young and Graham sharing time at both guard positions, along with Newman, Vick, Garrett, and Cunliffe.

Like you say, another quality big man, and we should be ready to challenge for the National Championship.

Mike Schell 5 years, 5 months ago

Even maxwell could add some rim protection along with doka! Billy Preston Is as versatile as they come he will definitely take Braggs minutes next year if Carlton doesn't step up, just because Bragg will be a Jr next year dosnt mean self will automatically give the minutes to the upper classemen, svi is definitely gone after this year so the frontcourt will look like Graham, Newman, Vick/cunliffe, Preston, doka. Off the bench Bragg, maxwell, Colby

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