Rivalry with Missouri means as much to KU's Christian Braun as it does to fan base
Prepare yourself for even more snarls and swagger from Kansas junior Christian Braun. He won’t be able to hold back. Not with that black and gold he knows all too well in his line of sight.
To say that Saturday’s Border Showdown revival means more to Braun than most current players on either side of the college basketball state line is an understatement. While the 6-foot-7 guard from Burlington, like all of his KU teammates, has never faced the Jayhawks’ old conference rivals, Braun has spent most of the 20 years of his life embedded in the rivalry.
Braun is the rare KU player who might actually look at Missouri with the same disdain as many of the Jayhawks’ crazed fans. So much so that Braun’s passion for the rivalry couldn’t be concealed when he spoke with reporters on Thursday.
“I’m proud to wear Kansas, and I’m going to be proud to get this win on Saturday,” Braun said.
Already playing the best basketball of his career (16.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, 62.8% shooting), and doing so while successfully toeing the line between confidence and cockiness, that brazen approach will only intensify against the Tigers. And he has his family to thank for that.
His mother, Lisa, was a three-time All-Big Eight basketball player at Missouri. His uncle, Mike Sandbothe, played basketball for Mizzou. So did his aunt, Lori Sandbothe.
“They don’t really let me stop hearing about it, to be honest. My uncle Mike talks about himself all day,” a grinning Braun reported.
So when Braun says this particular game means “a lot” to him, he’s not overselling it.
He ended up on the crimson and blue side of the rivalry thanks to his dad, Donny, a former KU walk-on who would eventually transfer to Saint Louis.
“Me and my dad were always kind of on the other side. But I always tell people, I was always on the winning side,” Braun said. “So it feels good to be a winner. That’s why I chose here. I never really looked over in Mizzou’s direction, even though my brother was there.”
That’s right. Even his brother, Parker, wanted to play at Mizzou. At least for a few years. Parker, who was a walk-on with the Tigers, this past offseason transferred to Santa Clara. But Braun doesn’t think playing against his brother this year would have made the rivalry game more fun. He said he’s happy for Parker, now a starter with the Broncos, instead of a backup with the Tigers.
Braun said his brother learned a lot from Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin, and credited Martin with helping Parker grow as a person.
And then Braun’s inner Jayhawk got the best of him.
“They’re playing really good basketball over there (at Santa Clara), and that’s something (Parker) hasn’t seen,” a smirking Braun added, not missing an opportunity to take a jab at the Tigers. (Santa Clara is 7-3, and during the three years — one as a redshirt — Parker was at Mizzou, the Tigers were 15-17, 15-16 and 16-10.
Braun was asked if Parker will be cheering for his KU-loving brother in the rivalry game.
“Oh, absolutely,” he responded, almost appalled by the question.
In fact, Braun said all of his aunts and uncles and family members will be on his side of the border rivalry for this matchup.
“There’s no question. They’re all Kansas fans now that I’m here.”
He then suppressed a laugh, while adding: “We kind of give them something to cheer for.”
Though the KU-Mizzou rivalry disappeared for nine years for some, it didn’t for Braun.
“It never really died to me,” he said.