Kansas sophomore forward Carlton Bragg, who according to his mentor is in good academic standing at KU, headed Thursday to his hometown of Cleveland to plan the next chapter of his college basketball career.
“It’s not a sad day. It’s not a happy day. It’s like a pause in a sentence and moving forward. There’s a period and you start the next sentence,” Michael Graves, one of Bragg’s assistant coaches at Villa Angela-St. Joseph High, told The Star in a phone conversation.
He was speaking less than an hour after KU coach Bill Self announced that the 6-foot-10 Bragg will transfer from KU to a yet-to-be-determined school after two seasons.
“It wasn’t a bad experience at Kansas. He learned a lot, won two Big 12 championships, had a chance to go overseas, won a gold medal (at World University Games). All the life experiences he got were very important,” added Graves, who has worked with Bragg on basketball and life skills since Bragg was in the eighth grade.
Graves said it was Bragg’s decision to leave KU and the player was not dismissed despite being suspended four games last season. Self in a news release also said it was Bragg’s decision to transfer. Bragg’s immediate plans were to return to Cleveland and complete his second-semester coursework online.
“He met with coach (Bill) Self. He (Bragg) talked to me about it. He wants to get a fresh start and go from there,” Graves said. “He’s going to transfer and get that fresh start. We appreciate the opportunity coach Self and Kansas gave us. We’re going to move forward. Right now we’ll spend time with family and get together and talk and see what our next step is.
“Coach (Norm) Roberts, coach Self, all the staff there have been very helpful since the beginning. Carlton actually loves it there. I enjoyed it the couple times I came down,” Graves continued. “We’re thankful for the opportunity to play at the highest level. We’ll huddle up, dust ourself off and go back at it.”
Graves said Bragg could transfer to a school close to home.
“That’s a possibility,” he said. “There’s nothing like coming home and being with family and friends, getting a home-cooked meal. That’s a possibility.”
Asked what went wrong at KU, Graves said: “Just some things we didn’t expect, the playing time and just the overall play.”
Bragg averaged 5.2 points and 4.1 rebounds in 13.8 minutes a game his sophomore season.
“It didn’t match up to what we expected. But you live and learn,” Graves noted. “We’re grateful coach Self gave him the opportunity to come to Kansas. We’ll go to the next step.”
Bragg had off-the-court issues this season.
He missed a Jan. 28 win at Kentucky, Feb. 1 win over Baylor and Feb. 4 loss to Iowa State while serving a suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Bragg was granted diversion Feb. 1 through the Lawrence Municipal Court after being charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. The six-month diversion agreement stipulated the case would be dismissed if Bragg completes diversion requirements. Bragg was ordered to pay $63 in court costs and a $300 diversion fee.
Bragg was suspended on Dec. 9 after he was charged with misdemeanor battery in Douglas County District Court. Bragg missed one game and was reinstated after the charge was dismissed on Dec. 14 and the woman who accused him was charged instead.
Of those issues, Graves said: “Nobody expected that, the couple issues he had off the court. He’s a kid, young, away from home, three hours away on a plane. Stuff happens. At the end of the day, he’s still a kid. You learn from your mistakes and you move on.”
Graves explained how Bragg will be able to complete his KU coursework in Cleveland.
“Semester is over May 5th. He finished three classes and can do the two online,” Graves said. “He’s all set with the books. He’s good with the GPA. That’s another thing that we appreciate — the coaches and staff, tutors, teachers helped put him in a good situation academically. Everyone was on point. I’m grateful they kept an eye on Carlton with the books. I’m proud he almost got a 3.0 GPA. He’ll be a junior. That’s the No. 1 thing. That’s good,” Graves continued.
Self, who was off recruiting Thursday, did not answer a call seeking further comment. In a release, he stated: “We appreciate Carlton’s efforts the last two years at Kansas. We certainly respect his decision to pursue other opportunities. We wish him nothing but the very best and hope he is able to reach his dreams and goals.”
Bragg, who did not answer a call, said in the release: “I really enjoyed my time here at Kansas. Kansas has the best fans and I do love the program. This past year didn’t go as well as I thought it would and it’s in my best interest to get a fresh start. I want to thank my teammates, coaches and the fans for all their support these past two years. I will always cheer for the Jayhawks.”