Carlton Bragg knows a thing or two about quick turnarounds.
On the afternoon of March 29, Bragg was in Columbus, Ohio, scoring 12 points in helping Cleveland’s Villa Angela-St. Joseph win its second state championship in three years. That evening, Bragg was in Chicago, at the first practice for the McDonald’s All-America game, working out in front of NBA scouts and recruiting analysts.
Bragg, ranked the 16th-best player in the class of 2015 by Scout.com, is headed to Lawrence this fall as the centerpiece of Bill Self’s recruiting class. There he will look to be a part of another quick turnaround as the Jayhawks look to remain the class of the Big 12 while improving after a second consecutive season of a second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament.
A forward with terrific strength and a long wingspan, Bragg should find a place quickly on the Kansas front line. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound big man averaged more than 21 points and eight rebounds per game this prep season and showed his versatility by finishing as the runner-up in the McDonald’s skills contest. He also flashed impressive range as an outside shooter in the three days of workouts prior to Wednesday’s game.
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“I’ve always had it, yes,” Bragg said about his jump shot. “Coming into this McDonald’s game, Coach Self was telling how in college they ice it, trapping it so it’s like a pick-and-pop game. As a big guy, you (have to) be able to shoot the 18-footer.”
That’s not say Bragg can’t play in the paint like a traditional power forward. With the uncertain futures of Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander, Bragg may be asked to be the Jayhawks’ primary post scorer next season. There are some other highly ranked big-men prospects that are still considering Kansas, but as of now, Bragg is the likely replacement if there are open front-court minutes.
Self has made freshman work for their playing time in the past, regardless of their status as elite recruits. That doesn’t bother Bragg, who said he has a strong relationship with the Jayhawks coach.
“Earning minutes isn’t an issue, because it shows your talent, shows your hard work,” Bragg said. “(Self) develops his (power forwards) and (centers) the best, you know. He’s the best in the country for doing that.”
Bragg performed well in the McDonald’s game, showing his wide array of skills. He threw down a windmill dunk on a breakaway, hit a three-pointer and also crashed the glass hard.
In 14 minutes of play, Bragg finished with nine points and a steal, calling the game “an exciting, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
But by the time the final horn sounded, with his West team losing 111-91, the master of the quick turnaround had already started focusing on what is next to come: a summer of preparing himself for the rigors of college basketball. Self has told Bragg what he’d like the forward to work on, and there are things to accomplish all over the place, from the classroom to the basketball court.
“I’m going to work extremely hard this summer. I have to get my grades together, stay on top of my grades,” Bragg said. “Coach keeps telling me to work on the pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll. I need to improve that 15-18 footer.
“But I’m really looking forward to getting down to Kansas.”