Kansas basketball coach Bill Self says he envisions sophomore Carlton Bragg building on Saturday’s solid performance against Davidson at the Sprint Center.
“I think Carlton is a much, much, much better player than what he’s shown so far this year. I think that he is probably getting ready to take off in a positive way,” Self said Monday on his weekly Hawk Talk radio show.
Bragg, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward from Cleveland, scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds while playing 18 minutes in the Jayhawks’ 89-71 victory over the Wildcats. He’d missed KU’s previous game while serving what turned out to be a one-game suspension.
“I think he’s going to get better as the season progresses, but I’m not going to sit here and say he hasn’t had a little bit of a sophomore slump,” Self added. “There’s a lot of kids who go through it. He’s certainly gone through it.”
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Bragg, who started the first five games and has come off the bench in five more, has averaged 7.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 16.2 minutes per game.
The former McDonald’s All-American averaged 3.8 points, 2.5 boards and 8.9 minutes a game his freshman season.
“Our team as a whole … we’ve actually looked a lot better when we play four guards. I don’t think anybody will deny that,” Self said. “His (Bragg’s) role may change a little bit than what he thought it would be. That’s a reflection on those other guys (guards) just being out there and playing better.
“We need him to come through. He needs to give us 15 to 20 good minutes every day. If he’s able to do that, if Landen (Lucas, senior forward) is able to do that, if ‘Doke’ (Udoka Azubuike, freshman center) is able to do that … you add that up, there’s 50 or 60 good minutes. I think that will be enough because we are going to play small quite a bit.”
Self said he had no plans of abandoning KU’s four-guard lineup during the Big 12 season.
“Offensively I don’t see it being a problem,” Self said of going with four guards. “You want to be able to grind it and want to be able to score points in the paint and get shots in the paint. We are scoring just as many points in the paint now as we did before. The guards are the ones scoring it instead of the bigs. I don’t see it being a huge negative for us offensively. I am more concerned about rebounding the ball.”
As for defense, “We practice a lot trapping the post man that the guard is guarding,” Self said. “We have not really been hurt on that yet, but that can be a potential problem. If they set a ball screen, we switch it and they roll a big into the post, you’ve got to be able to choke the ball out of there.”
Self said some of the bigs’ minutes could be reduced simply because guards Frank Mason, Devonté Graham, Josh Jackson, Svi Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick have performed well.
“I think it (four-guard lineup) affects Mitch (Lightfoot, freshman forward) unfortunately. I think it affects Carlton unfortunately,” Self said. “I don’t know about Udoka or Landen because I think they’ll probably end up combining to playing a majority of the 40 minutes at the 5-spot. The reality is if you play five guards 140 minutes or more, you only have 60 minutes left at the most.
“ ‘Doke,’ I think all fans would agree, he has the potential to be our best low-post scorer. He’s going to get to the point he’ll play his 18 to 22 (minutes) probably night in and out, at least we hope so. I think most everybody would agree when Landen is playing well, he gives us an element nobody else does because his basketball IQ and being a veteran and talking help the team win. Then you are getting down to how many minutes are left for somebody else. Mitch would be competing with Carlton for those minutes.”
Of Lightfoot, who had a basket in four minutes against Davidson, Self said: “I think Mitch is doing fine. I think Mitch will be a good player. We went into the season thinking we’d play two bigs a majority of the time. It’s not that the bigs have done poorly, it’s just you can make a case Svi and Lagerald have done pretty well and they deserve to be on the court as much as anybody does.”
Self reiterated junior forward Dwight Coleby is not 100 percent recovered from ACL surgery. Coleby, a transfer from Ole Miss, did not play against Davidson.
“Dwight is probably 80, maybe 85 (percent). He needs to be 100 to be able to help us quite a bit,” Self said. “I think he’s gaining on it. He’s working, trying to put in extra time in the weight room to strengthen it. He’s still not where he needs to be. It’s not a reflection on him from a trying standpoint. I think a lot of it is mental, being able to get through it.
“He showed signs at practice today. He made a real athletic play. It’s like he wasn’t thinking. He just went and did it, because I think sometimes his mind thinks about his knee some,” Self added.
Scooter hopefully home for Christmas
Scott Ward, KU’s associate athletic director for academic and career counseling who had surgery to repair a tear in his aorta on Oct. 7 and additional heart surgery on Nov. 13 at University of Kansas Hospital, is slated for a Thursday release from Kansas Transitional Care Center.
“Three more days, three more days … #homebychristmas #rootforscoot,” Ward’s wife, Robin, wrote on Facebook on Monday.
Self spoke with Scott Ward on Sunday.
“Dr. Ward is progressing nicely. He’s strong. He’s on schedule to come home on Thursday, so he’d be home for Christmas,” Self said. “His strength is getting better. He’s in great spirits. He and Robin are both excited to get back (to Lawrence). I don’t know when he’ll start coming back to work. I know it’s a goal of his to be at our K-State game on Jan. 3. That’d be an awful nice sight if he’s able to be there.”
▪ Jarred Vanderbilt, a 6-8 senior forward from Victory Prep High in Houston, who at one point had KU on his list of schools, has narrowed his recruiting list to Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon and TCU. He’s ranked No. 21 in the recruiting Class of 2017 according to Rivals.com.
▪ Shareef O’Neal, the 6-9 son of former NBA great Shaquille O’Neal, tells Rivals.com that KU is on his list of schools. O’Neal, a junior out of Crossroads High in Santa Monica, Calif., has a list of KU, UCLA, Arizona, USC, LSU and others. He’s ranked No. 27 in the recruiting Class of 2018 by Rivals.com.
▪ KU assistant coach Norm Roberts on Monday attended a game of Trevon Duval, a 6-2 senior point guard from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., who is ranked No. 3 in the Class of 2017. Duval is playing this week at the City of Palms Classic in Florida. He has a list of KU, Duke, Arizona, Baylor and Seton Hall.