With Bragg gone, where will the Jayhawks look to fill his role?
Now that it’s all over, it’s hard to believe that the Carlton Bragg Jr. era in Kansas basketball will go down as an experiment.
But that’s exactly what it was.
Despite earning high praise throughout his prep career and becoming another in a long line of McDonald’s All-Americans to join the Jayhawks, Bragg’s two years in Lawrence were mostly about unfilled potential and missed opportunities.
As a freshman, when he showed promise and seemed to be smiling all the time, Bragg went into games with little pressure and often gave the Jayhawks solid minutes when he was on the floor.
Playing him then was not much of a gamble for the Jayhawks, but on a veteran team with so much talent in the front court, there really was no need for Bragg to be a big time player.
That all changed during his sophomore season, when the Cleveland native was in perfect position to pick up the slack left by Perry Ellis’ departure but could never get it done, mentally or physically, off the court or on.
Bragg’s entire sophomore season was a mess and he rarely — if ever — looked like the kind of player many expected and hoped he would be.
That reality, along with his inability to deliver when the pressure was on — and, really, even when it wasn’t — led to today and Bragg’s decision to leave KU for a fresh start.
It’s a good decision. And it will benefit both sides. While Bragg gets a chance to start over at a program that no doubt will be excited about his physical tools, wherever that may be, Kansas gets his scholarship back and can add another body in the 2017 recruiting class.
Already with combo guard Marcus Garrett and Oak Hill big man Billy Preston in the mix, the Jayhawks now can address both need and desire with the remaining spots.
KU coach Bill Self said the other night that he’d like to add another ball handler for insurance at the guard position and a quick-twitch 4 man to back up Preston.
That was before Bragg’s scholarship was available. Now, with another offer to hand out if Self so chooses (and as long as Josh Jackson declares for the NBA Draft) the Jayhawks can double up on either position and take the best available player out there, be that a high school senior or a college transfer.
By quick-twitch 4 man, Self is talking about a player who owns everything that everyone thought Bragg had and everything former KU stud Kevin Young did have.
If Self could find a Kevin Young type of player, he would almost immediately have some kind of role and impact on next year’s team.
The extra energy, toughness inside and ability to keep up with the fast pace set by KU’s talented backcourt would be an absolute bonus and a nice change from what Bragg offered on the floor.
There are others who have filled this role in recent years, with Jamari Traylor, Cheick Diallo and even Thomas Robinson (before his monster junior season) also fitting that description while playing a supporting role.
Whether Self can find a guy like Young, Traylor, Robinson or Diallo at this point in the process remains to be seen. And with the spring signing period beginning next Wednesday, it seems more likely that such a player would come via the graduate transfer route that delivered Tarik Black a couple of years back.
Here are a couple of names worth familiarizing yourselves with as Self and his assistants scan the country for a player who could fill this role.
• Jeremiah Tilmon, 6-foot-10, 235-pound center from East St. Louis, Ill., recently requested his release from Illinois, where he committed last July. With the coaching change to Brad Underwood, Tilmon, a 5-star prospect and the No. 25-ranked player in the 2017 class according to Rivals.com, reconsidered his commitment and, given that he had Kansas on his list initially, may eventually be on the Jayhawks’ radar again.
• Shakur Juiston, 6-foot-7, 215-pound prospect from Hutchinson Community College has been on KU’s radar for a while and, according to 247 Sports, he received an offer from Kansas on March 6. In fact, Matt Scott of TheShiver.com, reported earlier today that Self and KU assistant Norm Roberts paid Juiston a visit today.
There are, of course, many more names that might surface in the coming days and weeks, as the Jayhawks look to finalize their 2017 class and set their roster entering the offseason.