Why The Jayhawks Must Land Carlton Bragg This Fall


With the 30th annual Late Night in the Phog in the books, we hope that all 16 recruits in attendance last night left Allen Fieldhouse fairly impressed. 2015 ESPN100 standouts Stephen Zimmerman, Tyler Dorsey, and Jalen Brown are some of the big names on campus this weekend, so you could say last night was a very important night for KU basketball. Although, out of every recruit coach Self has targeted, most KU fans are very high on Carlton Bragg. Luckily, he is very high on us as well.

Just recently, Bragg removed Arizona from his list of 5 schools, cutting his list to 4. His 4 schools of interest are now Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, and UCLA (in no particular order). However, Illinois is considered to be a long shot with the other 3 schools at an even race (Zags Blog). Recruiting analysts are saying he will decide before his senior season of high school ball begins. This would mean Bragg will decide very shortly, hopefully with no nationally televised hat selection…Cliff Alexander thankfully broke the “hat curse” for us last year, but by no means have we had success with hat selections in the past. Hopefully Bragg gives us Jayhawks fans no stress at all when it comes to his college decision in the near future.

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It is really no surprise that the 5-star combo-forward is getting heavily targeted by KU. With Perry Ellis potentially leaving next year to the NBA, along with freshman Cliff Alexander projected to be a top-5 pick in the 2015 draft, the Jayhawks might have a few holes to fill in the front-court in 2015-16. We all know Jamari Traylor, Hunter Mickelson, and Landen Lucas can play, but if coach Self does not do his job on the recruiting trail this year, then there will be an obvious lack of front-court scoring on the 2015-16 roster.

Oct 29, 2013; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks forward Landen Lucas (33) shoots a free throw during the first half of the game against the Pittsburg State Gorillas at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks won 97-57. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

In his two years at Arkansas, Mickelson averaged a mere 5.3 points per game. Of course he played in a stacked SEC conference, but the Big 12 is not much different. In 2013-14, Traylor averaged 4.8 points per game. He did only average 16.1 minutes per game last year, but there is still a huge gap in 2015-16 unless him, Mickelson, and Lucas can turn heads this season for KU. Both players will see an increase in minutes for sure, so there should be no excuse on why they can’t score close to 10 points per game this season. Reeling in Bragg for 2015-16 would certainly put less pressure on a guy like Landen Lucas, who has yet to find a true role in coach Self’s system. Traylor and Mickelson will most likely score the ball consistently for Kansas this year, but if not, Bragg is certainly the right guy to bring in.

In his junior high school year, Bragg averaged 18.8 points per game. Against the competition that Cleveland, Ohio produces year-in and year-out, that is pretty impressive. In response to his junior season and upside for his senior year, ESPN has ranked Bragg the 6th best power forward in the 2015 ESPN100. Rivals has him ranked the 5th best power forward and Scout has him ranked 3rd at that position. These rankings will change as the winter goes on, but for now, Bragg is easily one of the Jayhawks’ top targets without question.

Feb 15, 2014; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks forward Jamari Traylor (31) drives to the basket against TCU Horned Frogs guard Hudson Price (21) and forward Amric Fields (4) in the second half at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas won the game 95-65. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Bragg is very comparable to ex-Jayhawk Julian Wright, as well. He can finish at the rim, shoot the 3, and dish the ball out to his teammates. At a 6’9 height, you normally never see a player that versatile, unless that player is in the NBA. Wright gave us 2 great years in a Jayhawk uniform before entering the NBA in 2007. He went onto going 13th overall in the draft to the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans). What is very special about Bragg is that he would most likely start right off the bat for the Jayhawks if he commits. Even though Traylor would be the senior in-line for that starting power forward spot, Bragg’s screaming potential outweighs Traylor’s experience in this case. It is very important for the Jayhawks to maintain a strong front-court with go-to scoring because it has worked for them consistently in the past. Ever since the Morris twins, nothing has slowed down for KU big-men in terms of putting the ball in the basket.

What surprisingly “wows” most analysts about Bragg is his ability to finish in transition. Combo-forwards, even in the NBA, cannot run up and down the court at the speed that Bragg does. With Frank Mason, Kelly Oubre, Devonte Graham, and maybe Wayne Selden on that 2015-16 roster, Bragg could tag along onto one of the fastest teams in the nation. Not to mention, in a conference that has brought in versatile forwards like Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, and even Melvin Ejim, it wouldn’t hurt for a program as good as Kansas to have a player like that.

There is only one true question mark when it comes to Bragg and that is his defensive ability. He can block shots and rebound like no other, but his strength is certainly something that could use progression. Powerful players like Cameron Ridley of Texas and Rico Gathers of Baylor could have a field day on Bragg if he is unable to man-up on them in the paint. Traylor is a guy that could really teach Bragg a lot when it comes to playing aggressive defense in coach Self’s system. In a man-to-man scheme, soft defense drives coach Self insane, so Bragg’s strength would have to progress quickly.

Other than that, if Bragg’s defensive ability translates into college smoothly, then he will be amongst some of the best big-men in the game in 2015-16. A player like Carlton Bragg is one that coach Self and Kansas cannot let slip away on the recruiting trail this fall.