Perry Ellis. It is the first name that comes to your mind when you think of a Kansas frontcourt, even though No. 34 is no longer in the rotation. After attending KU for 60 seasons, Perry Ellis finally decided to call it quits.
All jokes aside, Ellis, who was coined “Mr. Consistency,” was definitely a staple for Kansas’ success in his time in a Jayhawk uniform. Another power forward will need to fill his shoes, and who better of a candidate than sophomore Carlton Bragg Jr.? Bragg, who averaged just 3.8 PPG in 2015-16, is almost certain for improvement in the upcoming season.
On Saturday during the annual Late Night in the Phog scrimmage, Bragg put up big figures, scoring 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting. He also knocked down a pair of three-pointers, showing that his range extends outside of the paint. Carlton Bragg also awed the crowd with a handful of highlight-reel dunks. Obviously, defense never shows up at Late Night. But, Bragg still proved one thing: he can score, and he can get hot fast. These were also components of Perry Ellis’ game during his tenure at Kansas.
Perry Ellis and Carlton Bragg share similar characteristics. Both entered Kansas at 6’8″, though Bragg has since grown to 6’10”. Both also entered college at similar weights; Ellis was 225 and Bragg was 220. Now, Bragg weighs in at 245 lbs. Ellis averaged more points per game his freshman year (5.8 to 3.8), but with Ellis now gone, there is no more standing in the shadows for Bragg. With Ellis playing 30 minutes per game last season, Bragg’s role on the team was diminished. This season, I much expect Landen Lucas to cover the 5 (center) position, with Bragg starting at the 4 (power forward).
Back in September, Carlton Bragg was listed in CBS Sports’ “Top 20 Breakout Players of 2016-17.” He was also ranked as Sports Illustrated‘s No. 1 most likely sophomore breakout player. It seems as if everyone is catching feelings that Bragg is going to be doing something big this season. Similar thoughts came up around this time last year in Lawrence when guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk entered his sophomore season. Despite the high expectations, Mykhailiuk was only able to tally 5.4 points per game, and he averaged just 11 minutes per contest. Earlier this week, Sarah Davis wrote a story on Mykhailiuk and what we can expect him to do in 2016-17.
The point that I am trying to convey is that the expectations people put on Svi were a bit overboard for a sophomore. Don’t get me wrong, I was disappointed in the outcome, but I do expect Svi to perform much better this season.
Will Carlton Bragg Jr. live up to his sophomore season hype?
Kansas’ backcourt is loaded, no question. However, some experts believe that the Jayhawk frontcourt will be vulnerable this year. In conference play last season, Landen Lucas earned his stripes, consistently collecting boards and making big plays up and down the floor. Lucas and Ellis worked hand-in-hand. Ellis, more of an offensive attacker than a defensive superstar, was known for putting up quick points with his consistent shot. Lucas, on the other hand, was more a defensive monster. This season, Carlton Bragg will have to make up for Perry Ellis’ frighteningly consistent offensive numbers, which are mighty big shoes to fill.
He may not put up the numbers that Ellis did, but in my opinion, I think that Bragg will be a more well-rounded player. From scoring to rebounding to providing a more consistent defensive presence, Bragg will do as much as he can to replace Ellis’ production. Don’t get me wrong, Ellis did everything he needed to on defense, but with Bragg’s length and speed, I think he has good shot at being one of the better defenders on the team this season.
We can sugarcoat, or we can be extremely optimistic about Bragg’s expected performance this season. In the end, it all comes down to one thing. When I write, I like pinpoint one thing when I am talking about a subject, and what needs to happen for the desired outcome to happen. Carlton Bragg needs to be consistent, just like Ellis was. Bragg can’t have inconsistency like Wayne Selden Jr., who in one game would drop 33 points, and two games later, he would score just three. If Carlton Bragg wants to soften the expected blow of Perry Ellis finally leaving Kansas, he has to bring his stuff every game – period.
Projected statline for Carlton Bragg Jr.: 13 points and seven rebounds per game while shooting 45% from the floor and 40% from three. His minutes-per-game will shoot to about 25.0.