University of Kansas

KU stays local in landing Blue Valley Northwest’s, MoKan Basketball’s Christian Braun

Christian Braun, of Blue Valley Northwest, went up for a basket in a substate final against Shawnee Mission West in March at Blue Valley Northwest high school.
Christian Braun, of Blue Valley Northwest, went up for a basket in a substate final against Shawnee Mission West in March at Blue Valley Northwest high school. Special to the Star

Ed Fritz has worked with several Kansas basketball players at his Blue Valley Northwest youth camps the past 17 summers in the Overland Park high school’s gym.

“I’ve done so many camps with KU players (as counselors). Now I get to do them with one of my own,” Fritz, the veteran Huskies coach, said on Tuesday, the day after BV Northwest senior point guard Christian Braun orally committed to play hoops at tradition-rich KU for Bill Self.

“Coach Self said he was happy he finally got one of my players. I said, ‘This is the first one you ever wanted,’ which is good,’’ Fritz added with a laugh.

Indeed, 6-foot-6 guard/forward Christian Braun, brother of Missouri freshman forward/BV Northwest graduate Parker Braun, is the first of Fritz’s players to receive a scholarship at KU.

Braun chose the Jayhawks over Kansas State, Oklahoma, Illinois, Missouri, Creighton, Wake Forest and others.

“We went to (KU’s) team camp during the summer. Coach Self wasn’t there. He was coaching the USA team,” Fritz said of USA Basketball’s Under-18 squad which won gold at the FIBA Americas championships in Canada. “The other (KU) coaches watched him a lot. Toward the end of the summer, in an AAU game (in Las Vegas for MoKan Basketball) he scored 31 points. A couple (KU) coaches were there. He started getting a lot of interest.

“I think one thing Coach Self really liked … he told him (Braun) about other players he’s going to get. Christian said, ‘Great, we want to have a good team.’ He’s not worried about the competition, not afraid of competition and I think coach Self likes that,” Fritz added.

Self — he cannot comment on individual recruits until signing day in November — obviously liked more than intangibles of Braun, who averaged 14.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game as a junior at two-time defending state champion BV Northwest.

“He came in as a freshman. He was 5-foot-7 or 5-8. He’s close to 6-7 now,” Fritz said. “I think he has a couple more inches in him. His brother is over 6-9.

“He’s 17. He won’t turn 18 until April. He still has some (physical) maturing to do and all that.”

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Braun — he moved from Burlington to Overland Park for his freshman year of high school — played junior varsity his first year at BV Northwest, was ninth man on the varsity his sophomore season and a starter last year.

“Last year we were 4-4. We moved him (from wing) to point guard and didn’t lose a game the rest of the year,” Fritz said. We won 17 in a row.”

Fritz envisions Braun as a wing in college.

“The thing is, if he grows another inch or two ...” Fritz said, envisioning an effective shooting guard/small forward. “He could play four positions. He may have to grow a bit to play the 4. He can play all three guard positions. He knows every position on the court. He is our point guard. He’s a capable ballhandler.

“He shoots it well, passes well, defends well. The thing for him … he has to get great at something. He’s good at so many things now. He does a lot of things. He doesn’t have to score 30 for us to win games. He’ll do what he has to do to get everybody involved in the game,” Fritz added.

Braun has been equally versatile for MoKan Basketball during the past six spring and summer AAU seasons.

“The unique thing for Christian … for most of his basketball career he was a guard and one of the smaller kids on the team. He grew up having to make those decisions with the ball in his hand,” said Drew Molitoris, youth director of MoKan Basketball.

“Look at him now. He’s 6-7 and may still be growing. He can pass, dribble and shoot. It benefited him. It’s been the last 18 months he’s shot up height wise. He was always tough, gritty, scrappy. You add some physical size to him, you see a very versatile player.”

Molitoris noted that Braun is, “a terrific kid. The thing that really separates him from others is the fact he’s so competitive and wants to win. He understands there’s tremendous value in doing the little things that are required to win. This past spring, he had the responsibility to defend, rebound and make open shots. Toward the end of the spring and summer it morphed into him being more aggressive offensively with a lot of scoring responsibility on his shoulders. He handled it well. Whether Peach Jam or an open gym at Blue Valley Northwest, he wants to win and will do whatever it takes to make that happen,” Molitoris added.

During this past season for MoKan, “he played more wing with us, but his versatility allowed him to slide wherever he was needed most. That’ll benefit him at Kansas obviously. It’ll be a competitive situation. Whether 2, 3 or 4, his skill set and ability to defend and rebound keeps him on the floor,” Molitoris stated.

As far as the recruiting process for Braun … he committed to KU after taking just one official visit — to Kansas State. The country’s No. 112-rated player in the recruiting Class of 2019 by was offered a scholarship on his unofficial visit to KU on Aug. 30.

He had an in-home visit with Self and assistant Norm Roberts on Sunday, then committed just a few hours later on Monday. As a result he has canceled visits set up to Oklahoma for this weekend and Illinois in October.

“I think he was blown away by Coach Self. The home visit went really well,” Fritz said. “Coach told him he’ll be anywhere from a starter to 12th man. Coach won’t play you unless you are ready to play. He’ll earn any minutes he gets. When you are ready to play, you’ll play. I think Christian liked hearing that.”

Braun’s commitment to KU should make for a charged atmosphere at games his senior season of high school.

“I don’t think it’ll be a problem at all,” Fritz said of fans flocking to see a future Jayhawk on the high school floor. “We’d have been happy wherever he went. He would be great at Oklahoma. He would be great at K-State. He loved all the coaches and players at K-State. Hopefully some people will want to check him out. For his high school team, it puts a little more pressure on us. I’m sure everybody wants to beat somebody who has a KU commit on the team. We’ll have to be ready to play and do well,” Fritz added.

MoKan coach Molitoris agreed it’s great to have local players compete at nearby colleges. The MoKan program, which also boasts Trae Young, Michael Porter Jr., Shake Milton and Willie Cauley-Stein as graduates, has now sent three players — Braun, plus current Jayhawks Ochai Agbaji and Garrett Luinstra — to Lawrence.

“It’s fun. Everybody takes pride in being able to be able to watch them play and having them kind of close to home,” Molitoris said. “We have a lot of guys who will be over at games watching them play. We’re happy for Christian. He will represent the school and program well. He plays the right way. He is about winning which is what the Kansas program stands for.”

Gary Bedore

Gary Bedore covers University of Kansas athletics for The Star.