Carlton Bragg has a story to tell about his shorts.
It begins in the locker room before an AAU tournament in 2013. He is a sophomore in high school. On this fateful day, his team is scheduled to wear new uniforms and he is last in line to select shorts. All the popular sizes are gone. No large, no medium, not even extra large remains. He is stuck with small.
Instead of taking the court in long, baggy shorts like everyone else, he looks like John Stockton, rocking shorts that barely cover his thighs.
He felt ridiculous. Then he scored 28 points. The short shorts everyone sees today were born.
Never miss a local story.
“I felt comfortable with them,” Bragg said. “I was like, ‘I am going to wear these again next game,’ and I had another really good game. I just kept it going. I love short shorts, as you can see. I absolutely love them.”
You can tell a lot about Bragg from his basketball fashion. He is an impossible player to miss in the NCAA Tournament. He stands out from your typical college basketball player by wearing short shorts on top of tights, tying the ensemble together with a headband. He says he would prefer to wear shooting sleeves, too, but not until Adidas creates a model that feels good on his arms.
Bragg dresses goofy because he is goofy.
He spends time coming up with new and creative ways to celebrate big baskets from the bench, pretending to catch arrows shot at him by teammates and dabbing when someone dunks. He is often first off the bench to congratulate starters, and he is quick with jokes.
He’s even receptive to ribbing about his shorts.
“When I first met him I could tell he was just a little goofy kid,” senior forward Jamari Traylor said. “We tried to make fun of him about wearing short shorts. Everyone was on him about it, but he was totally comfortable with it. That’s who he is. He embraces it.”
Does he ever.
The smallest shorts Kansas managers could find for him this season were size large, so he learned how to fold them at the waist until they were short enough for his liking.
“They all say I look silly, and that I look like a player from back in the day,” Bragg said. “I just tell them it’s my style. It suits the way I play.”
You don’t see that behavior from many former five-star recruits that see limited action, but the 6-foot-9, 220-pound Cleveland native is loaded with enthusiasm for his team and his role on it.
His personality, like his shorts, is a throwback.
Perhaps that is why he has been playing his best basketball, emerging as a legitimate post option in time for March. He scored 12 points against Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament, including a pair of three-pointers, followed with seven points against Baylor and saw meaningful minutes against West Virginia and Austin Peay.
His recent improvement reminds some of a young Perry Ellis.
Ellis wasn’t always the consistent performer he is today. He played sporadically as a freshman, and it took him until the Big 12 Tournament to find his shooting rhythm. But when he did, it was obvious he was a star in the making.
“I remember that,” Ellis said. “Late in the season, my game finally came around and I gained confidence. You can really see he has confidence in himself right now. It takes me back, and it’s exciting.”
Kansas coach Bill Self hopes Bragg can follow the same path, in any size shorts he chooses.
“It bodes well for the future,” Self said. “Carlton had a really, really good Big 12 Tournament. Yesterday, I didn’t think he was quite as good, he wasn’t as active defensively. But he’s confident right now scoring the ball. I think he’s got a chance to be a really good player.
“To me, he’s just strength and a little bit of experience away from being one of the better big guys that we’ve had at Kansas.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett