KU Basketball Player Preview: Carlton Bragg

Mar 31, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self speaks to media during a press conference at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Kansas Jayhawks head coach Bill Self speaks to media during a press conference at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

After playing mostly spot minutes for the KU basketball team last season, sophomore Carlton Bragg will have a huge role this year. Here’s what to expect from the super sophomore.

Flashes last season

Before last season, Carlton Bragg was lost in the hype and shadow of the more highly touted freshman Cheick Diallo. However, Bragg was the better player last season, and promises to have a huge role on the KU frontline this year. From his freshman campaign, it’s easy to see why Bragg is on the Karl Malone Award Watch List for 2016-17. Bragg may be the most skilled big Kansas has had since the Morris twins dominated Allen Fieldhouse. Last year, he showed a feathery shooting touch, even out to the three-point line. In limited action, he shot 56% from the floor. He seemed to master Bill Self’s patented hi-lo entry pass into the post. An improved Landen Lucas and physically imposing freshman Udoka Azubuike can live on good post feeds. He showed a good motor on the defensive end, even if his body wasn’t developed enough to hang with some of the Big 12’s more physical big men.

Like most freshmen, Bragg was also erratic at times. Most notably, Bragg averaged 7.2 fouls per 40 minutes, an unacceptable number. More experience and physical development should help this come down. In the same vein, Bragg turned the basketball over too much. His 3.4 turnovers per 40 minutes are much too high. More consistent playing time and chemistry with the best backcourt in the country will help that as well. On the defensive end, Bragg should be much better this year. In the offseason, Bragg added 30 pounds, and now is around 245. At a legitimate 6’10,” he has plenty of size and length to defend every forward in the conference. Bragg also needs to improve his rebounding. Last year, Bragg averaged only 6.3 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes, though he was nearly as active on the offensive glass, pulling down 4.8 per 40. Kansas will be an excellent rebounding team, as Landen Lucas, Josh Jackson, and even Frank Mason, can rebound effectively. Bragg’s added production, aided by his larger frame, should make Kansas one of the best rebounding teams in the nation.

A coming breakout?

This season, Carlton Bragg factors heavily in the Jayhawks’ hope for a deep tournament run. He doesn’t need to lead the team in scoring, but does need to be among the top three. He’ll get plenty of opportunities to score in the post, as guards Frank Mason, Devonte Graham, and Josh Jackson will keep any perimeter defense occupied. Bragg’s main weapon on offense will be his skill. He’s not a plus athlete, but possesses a decent handle for his size, and can shoot it out to the three-point line. His added bulk will allow him to bang down low as well.

During the summer scrimmages and Late Night in the Phog, Bragg showed off all of his skills, including an improved handle and his soft shooting stroke. At Late Night, Bragg scored 18 points on 8-11 shooting, a great number, even in a glorified pickup game. He also looked noticeably bigger, and lost none of his good mobility. For how Self will use Bragg, turn on some KU games from the 2010-11 season and watch Marcus Morris. Bragg will own the high post area, and is capable of reinvigorating Self’s hi-lo offensive scheme.

On the defensive end, Bragg is a capable man defender. KU’s elite perimeter defense will mask Bragg, if necessary. It’s unlikely Bragg will ever be an elite defender, due to his relatively short wingspan and lack of elite explosiveness, but certainly adequate at the Big 12 level. He also isn’t a rim protector, the one aspect of the defense the Jayhawks don’t have this season. Bragg’s added strength should help with the more physical Big 12 forwards. A stat line of 12 points, eight rebounds, 2.5-3 assists, and a block per game is reasonable for the sophomore, and should be a key cog in a well-oiled Jayhawk offense.