Summer is the time to refine not only players’ skill sets, but also their bodies. Kansas’ highly-touted freshman duo of Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike have fulfilled the latter thanks to the Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning program.
“These guys have goals,” Adrea Hurdy, Kansas’ long-time assistant director for sports information, told The Star. “They come here in part because we have the resources to help them attain their goals.
“They want the challenge and want to become better people, better basketball players and better athletes.”
Only 16 years old, Azubuike arrived in Lawrence having been consistently listed as weighing around 270 pounds throughout his prep career. Getting leaner while still maintaining – and increasing – strength is a significant development for such a young player, who was a consensus top-50 player in the 2016 class.
Jackson, the country’s top rated incoming freshman, now weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds at 6-foot-8. Six-foot-10 forward Carlton Bragg,a sophomore, also got in on the body-changing as he’s put on 26 pounds to head into the fall at 247 pounds.
Kansas is a likely top-five preseason team with returners like Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and having newcomers like Jackson and Azubuike along with sparsely-used but talented returnees like Bragg making gains in the weight room will only make them more formidable as they look to capture an astounding 13th-straight Big 12 title.
Star Kansas freshman Carlton Bragg injured on trip to South Korea
It took all of two practices for Kansas to suffer an injury during their trip to South Korea for the World University Games.
Five-star freshman big man Carlton Bragg broke his nose on Tuesday during the team’s practice at Gwangju High. It’s unclear how much time he’ll be out of the lineup, but the issue is more pain management than anything.
“Hopefully he won’t miss very much. A turned ankle is a worse injury than a broken nose,” head coach Bill Self said in a statement. “Although the broken nose hurts bad, and there were no concussion symptoms, it’s one that you can come back. You just have to play without being nervous getting hit.”
Based on this picture of Bragg, that seems easier said than done:
“It would be nice to find a mask but I don’t think we’ll be able to,” Self continued. “He can’t hurt it any worse. We’ll wait to have surgery when he gets back to straighten it up. He should be fine.”
Kansas is participating in the event as the representative for the United States.
Kansas freshman forward benefitting from World University Games practices
The adjustment to college basketball can be a difficult one for incoming freshmen, whether they arrive on campus with high acclaim or if they’re seen as a recruiting afterthought by the average fan. Arriving in the summer can help in that regard, as there are fewer distractions to deal with as they get used to a new (and tougher) level of play.
For Kansas freshman forward Carlton Bragg, the team’s preparations for the World University Games have helped in his adjustment to college basketball and what his new head coach requires of him.
While also noting the fact that he dealt with some homesickness early on in an interview with the Lawrence Journal-World, Bragg discussed how much he’s learned during the team’s practices in advance of their trip to South Korea. With games due to begin July 3, competing with Kansas’ experienced front court has helped the freshman in the first stage of his transition to college basketball.
“It’s very tough, very intense,” Bragg said. “I’ve been getting pounded down low, not learning stuff, coach getting on me. It can be a pretty big challenge, but I managed to get through it (first week) and keep progressing more.
“They (older teammates) are getting me ready mentally. I’m going through what they went through their freshman and sophomore years, how coach can get on you, them telling me to stay positive. I love it,” he added of the support. “It’s like a family. The culture here is amazing.”
As was seen last season, freshmen can have a difficult time adjusting to Bill Self’s demands, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Kelly Oubre Jr. didn’t see playing time along the lines of what was expected of him until conference play, and Cliff Alexander also had his struggles before being declared ineligible by the NCAA.
But those are things young players have to find a way to push through, as Bragg’s learning this summer. A positive for him is that he’ll have these early practices and games to gain an even greater idea of what his new coaches demand on both ends of the floor, and the hope is that this experience will benefit Bragg (and in turn the Jayhawks) this winter.
CBT’s Recruiting Roundup: Carlton Bragg’s impact at Kansas; Kobie Eubanks, Brandon Sampson cut their lists
Each week, College Basketball Talk’s Scott Phillips goes over some important news and notes in the world of college basketball recruiting. This week, five-star 2015 forward Carlton Bragg commits to Kansas, Kobie Eubanks and Brandon Sampson cut their lists.
Carlton Bragg pledges to Kansas
By becoming the first player to pledge to Kansas in the 2015 class, five-star forward Carlton Bragg is blazing an important trail and he gives the Jayhawks insurance if Perry Ellis or Cliff Alexander leave early. Bragg is a talented inside-outside threat with a lot of natural ability and his commitment is important for Bill Self. Now Self can focus more time and energy on the wing and perimeter and also hone on in adding a big man to add alongside Bragg.
As the No. 14 overall prospect in the 2015 class, according to Rivals, Bragg is an All-American talent coming on board, but I’m not sure how he’ll immediately translate to college level. Production can go up-and-down for Bragg, especially if he misses his first few shots. He’s been prone to taking too many perimeter jumpers at times and settling for easy looks. Self has gotten a lot of power forwards to the NBA though and Bragg has pro ability if he can focus his efforts to producing each game.
Kansas needs someone who can come in — or currently develop — into a go-to scorer. A tough and focused guy who can get things done when the game is on the line. Bragg probably isn’t that guy. But if Kansas adds someone like Jaylen Brown or Brandon Ingram it means that Bragg is the perfect complimentary piece for the 2015 class.
Eubanks is still considering Georgia, Kansas, Louisville, Maryland, Missouri, Oregon, Providence, South Florida, UConn, and Virginia Tech. The guard is also taking an official visit to Oregon this weekend as the Ducks are set to host Arizona State for a Pac-12 conference game.
Eventually the guard plans to thin out his list later in the high school season and also take some more visits. This will be a recruitment worth monitoring because Eubanks is a legitimate high-major scorer and one of the best available options left on the board.
The 6-foot-4 Sampson is a smooth scorer on the perimeter and he’s particularly looking at Cal, St. John’s and USC. The No. 40 overall player in the 2015 class, according to Rivals can add a lot of instant scoring pop from the perimeter and would be a really nice spring signing as a four-star player.
With LSU landing Antonio Blakeney and Arizona transfer Craig Victor this week, the Tigers aren’t hurting for incoming talent while Sampson could really see a lot of playing time at each of the three schools recruiting him.
Cal is still looking for an influx of talent under new coach Cuonzo Martin and Sampson would be a nice player besides Tyrone Wallace in the Cal backcourt. St. John’s is losing a lot of senior firepower and could use a good guard next to Rysheed Jordan. And USC as a team is only shooting 29 percent from 3-point range this season, they could use Sampson’s shooting ability.
This should be an interesting recruitment to follow because it’s schools on both coasts with playing time to offer competing for a high-scoring player from nowhere near any of the schools involved.
Bragg has taken official visits to Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA and Illinois has also hosted the forward throughout his recruiting process. While many might perceive the Jayhawks and Wildcats to be the favorites because of their championship pedigrees, Illinois head coach John Groce has been incredibly active in recruiting Bragg and the Illini can offer more guaranteed immediate playing time since Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA all have talented future pros playing in their front courts. NBA Draft defections from Kansas, Kentucky or UCLA after this season could certainly change that.
A very naturally talented forward, Bragg attends Villa Angela – St. Joseph High School in Cleveland and ran with the Ohio Basketball Club in the adidas Gauntlet.
In 16 games this spring in the adidas Gauntlet, Bragg averaged 15.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range. While Bragg is talented enough to put up big numbers on a regular basis, his consistency has always been a question mark. Some games the forward will spend too much time drifting on the perimeter and Bragg isn’t always fully engaged if he misses his first few shots.
Still, he’s an All-American level talent and could be a future pro if he maximizes his vast potential. Bragg’s impending commitment means that nine of Rivals‘ five-star prospects in the 2015 class are still uncommitted.
The Cleveland native will be on the move the next couple of weeks, attending Late Night at the Phog on Oct. 10 for his official visit to Kansas. That is followed by an Oct. 17 trip to Lexington, Kentucky for Big Blue Madness and most recently, he’s scheduled a trip to UCLA for Oct. 31. No official visit has been set for Illinois, though, he did host head coach John Groce for an in-home visit on Tuesday night.
Bragg is coming off a busy summer with stops at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Virginia and the adidas Unrivaled Camp in Chicago during the July live period. That doesn’t include his stint on the adidas Gauntlet grassroots circuit with Ohio Basketball Club. In 16 appearances, he averaged 15.8 points, 8.9 boards and 1.6 blocks per game, shooting 49 percent from the field and 38 percent (16-for-42) from beyond the arc.
He is rated as the No. 14 overall player in the Class of 2015 by Rivals.