Carlton Bragg looking to set more visits

The top players in the class of 2015 are seeing their recruitments begin to ramp up as they enter their junior year. As with each season, various recruits have different strategies when it comes to handling the recruiting process. For Carlton Bragg it means utilizing a trusted advisor and coach. We spoke with Bragg's mentor recently to get an update.

How were you recruited to help Carlton Bragg through the recruiting process?

Michael Graves: It really started because I started seeing a lot of schools starting to get involved with him, so we just decided to help him focus on his recruitment because I've been coaching him since the 9th grade, and I really wanted to just make sure he got his assignments done and staying on top of his books, stuff like that. I've also been training him for a while and I've been coaching on the staff for awhile, just trying to help him out.

Given your relationship, what can you tell us about Carlton off the court?

Fun kid, really. When all this started, he was kinda quiet at first, but now he's starting to show his personality a lot more, he's laughing and joking. He's a really good kid, I think he's misunderstood from back in like 8th grade, 7th/8th grade, now he's at St Joe's, he's comfortable, it's a family oriented atmosphere, and he's starting to take shape as a young man, he's responsible, he's just a fun loving kid.

Since you are training him on the court, I wanted to ask about the kind of role you see him playing at the next level...

I think he's going to be like a 3 or a 4. He's got the outside game, and also what he does really well is run the floor, he gets wide in transition, especially when he's playing with a top flight point guard, he runs the lane and gets wide. I think in college he's going to be a 3 or a 4 and I think in college he'll need to play in a running type system, stuff like that.

From your perspective, are there any schools recruiting Carlton that present a good match for the kind of style of play and role that he wants to play in college?

Really, most of the schools do. A lot of the Big 10, some of the West Coast schools do a good job with that, Carlton's decision it's going to have to be a perfect fit for him, he's going to have to look at the roster to look and see what's going on, so that's why I'm telling him to take the early time now to look at schools recruiting him and from there we can do our research and check their rosters out, see who will be there if Carlton would come. Right now we're just going through the process, but me and Carlton we do our research with different schools into their style of play to see what's a good fit for Carlton.

Can you share an example of what would make a school a bad fit for Carlton versus a good fit based on the roster situation?

Yeah, the 3 and 4 spot, like if they have a bunch of freshman/sophomores when Carlton goes there, like they would have two more years left, so Carlton wants to have the opportunity to play in his first or second year. We're just looking by keeping track of the different schools and what is going on, that's all. Like if they recruit another 2015 or 2014 kid that's similar, we're just taking a look at that to create a chart and see who has what so that we can see what is open and that way, he can get a chance to play right away.

Is there anybody so far in your research that presents a concern for you and Carlton from a potential depth chart perspective?

Not really because we really just started the process and we're just really starting to track that stuff. Not that I know of right now, but I can let you know further down the line. I just felt that would be the best way for Carlton to know by telling him in 2015, they've got a senior so you might have to wait a bit, but it's really just to give him an opportunity to see what's out there, who people have so he can make a good decision.

As you guys are tracking schools this year, which ones do you think you'll be paying closer attention to?

Mostly everybody, within the next six to eight months he's going to trim his list down, maybe within in the next year we'll try and trim the list down, get it to maybe 8 by this time next year. Carlton still has a long way to go with everything on and off the court. We just gotta make sure he stays humble and doesn't get big headed or anything like that. He has good people around him, not just me but his uncle, his coaches, the alumni from St Joe's have taken him with open arms. He's got a good small group around him, a tight school and we're just going to make sure we keep him on the right track in the classroom and things should be fine.

How much do you think Carlton leans on what your opinion is of a school to shape how he feels about them?

For instance when we visited Illinois and Ohio State he had his opinion, but he asked me and I told him that it's going to be his decision but if you ask me which schools would be best for you, I'm going to tell him what I think while maintaining that it's his decision. I was telling his mom and his uncle last week that it's Carlton's decision, but if Carlton asks me what schools should I consider going to, I'm going to give him a list of top 3 schools that would be the best fit for him.

Since you are in that position of being available to give your opinion if Carlton asks for that guidance, how are you going about forming your own opinions about the schools recruiting him?

Right, there's a couple of things I look at. First, the campus, we're going to visits campuses to see what the social and academic life is like, the academics have to be good. Style of play, the coaches demeanor will play a big role in it, I want him to have something similar to me in terms of the coaches on the staff to make sure Carlton is doing good on and off the court, just somebody to watch over him. Colleges have all the resources with that you know, I'm doing it on a smaller level but the colleges they have academic counselors, they have everything you need. The basketball plan, all that stuff matters and it doesn't matter if it's in Ohio or all the way across the country, Carlton is totally open to anyone and everyone.

What kind of approach do you take in how you mentor Carlton since you mentioned wanting Carlton to play for coaches that take a similar approach to how you mentor and coach him?

I'm a little bit of everything, there's a time where you have to be firm, hold them accountable and then there's other times where you have to let him learn on his own. I kinda treat him like he's my son, I'm there when he needs to be picked up and I let him do his thing. But when I see things that may affect him like learning lessons like with AAU ball, like I tell him that you have to be ready to play, you have to win in pool play, I just try to counsel him, coach him, teach him because this is what could happen. I tell him it's important to get off to a quick start on the court or it's going to be a tough uphill climb. I just try to teach him as I go along. I treat him fairly but when I need to buckle down I buckle down just like a coach would. I tell him that coaches, this is why they get paid, you gotta win, the kids gotta be ready.

Switching gears a bit, are there any offers that you guys are hoping to receive before you think about trimming the list?

Well, that's Carlton's decision in a lot of ways, but we're got a nice list, and he's already got 14 offers. It's a nice group with another 18 schools that haven't offered but have expressed interest, there's some schools who want us to come visit. We're satisfied with the list but Carlton has said there's some schools he's waiting on, but you'd have to ask him that.

Carlton mentioned that he was really "excited" to see Kentucky, Indiana, Duke and North Carolina on the sidelines this summer at his games, have any of those schools stepped up an offer just to confirm?

Not yet, they are all tracking him, they are going to be coming to open gyms here at school, school starts up shortly, next Wednesday. We're going to start open gyms in the next 30 days and I'm in contact with all of those schools and they are looking forward to coming up to Cleveland in the next 30 days or so for open gym and just to track Carlton through his junior year.

Are any of those four recruiting Carlton harder than the others?

They are all about the same, it's amazing the NCAA, they created that rule where colleges can call or text  and we changed Carlton's # because we didn't want it to bother him, so everything is coming through me now with the coaches, so we kinda screen them, but nobody is calling more than the other. I take all the calls but I'm only controlling the actual contact with Carlton because I don't want it to get overwhelming for him because it's overwhelming for me because you've got the East Coast schools calling at 9 and then you got the West Coast schools calling later, around midnight because of the time difference, so no one is getting more contact than the other with Carlton, I just try to control it a little bit by telling them to call after certain times and I'll try to connect the call with Carlton. I just try to coordinate the calls for Carlton if he's available. It's just a lot man, but that's the name of the game, that's how it is.

Can you share which schools you and Carlton have been able to visit unofficially outside of the Illinois and Ohio State visits you mentioned earlier?

We went to UCLA, Cleveland State, Ohio State, Illinois, West Virginia, we had gone to a camp last year and saw West Virginia, but that's it so far.

Where are you looking to visit over the next few months?

We're going to take a look at Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, Rutgers, Duke and possibly Texas. We haven't set any dates yet, we're going to sit down and try to map out some weekend visits and get him to back to focus on the team thing with the season coming up. We have a really good chance at winning the Division 3 title this year, so we want to get him back after that and off to a really good start with school, kinda just focusing on what's important. The visits are more likely going to be in September than October so that he can focus on the team workouts and open gyms. We're going to try to go to maybe one or two places in September, then we'll see what happens.

Have the schools you are considering for these visits given you specific dates to see if they work, or is it more just come when you are able to, ball is in your court to let us know when you want to come?

They've given us dates, Kentucky has a date on the 9th, Michigan has a football game they've invited him down for, West Virginia has something going on at the end of this month they've invited him to, it's just hard because I work a lot, I have a lot of responsibilities in my life, so we just gotta coordinate it.

With Duke, did they give you specific dates to consider for the visit?

I talked to Coach Wojo and he told me to just look at the calendar and see what was available for us, I told him I would call him this week once things settle down for us and then we'd go from there.

How would you describe the Duke interest up until this point?

We talked to Nate James, that was the first person we really had contact with from Duke, then we talked with Coach Wojo the last two weeks, he came to Indiana and Vegas and caught Carlton play. He said he really likes Carlton's game and he had a chance to talk to Carlton like once or twice and he told him that he liked his style of play and to keep up the good work and keep up the good work in the classroom, and we're going to be tracking you, watching you play and just keep up the good work.

After interacting with the Duke staff early on, what are your initial impressions of them?

That's top notch right there, Duke is top notch for sure. Nate James, he was a very resourceful guy, he kinda gave me his knowledge on a couple of things for Carlton to work on. Nate is very resourceful with his information, I didn't know him personally or from his playing time, but I could tell when I talked him with him from the first time that he was a very resourceful guy and I just respected him from the start. Hopefully the next couple of weeks we'll get to talk with Coach K and stuff like that.

Are they trying to get you on the phone with Coach K?

Yeah, we're going to talk with him in the next couple of weeks after things settle down, we were traveling so much and stuff like that.

Is Coach Wojo kinda taking over Carlton's recruitment from what you've heard, or will Nate James be staying involved as well?

That I don't know, maybe both, I don't know. I had talked to Nate first and then Wojo reached out to us because he was the guy that was going to be traveling that week and he was going to be watching Carlton, so he kinda reached out to us.

How did Carlton react when you guys found out that they are trying to get him on the phone with Coach K?

He was excited, he was really, really excited.

Carlton has some strong feelings about Kentucky and Coach Calipari from our recent interview, what's your thoughts on Kentucky?

It's another top notch program, just have to wait and see what happens. I talked with Coach Antigua and they've been saying the same thing, that they are going to be tracking Carlton, they like his game and tell him to keep working hard in the classroom.

Is it a big deal in your estimation with the schools who have offered Carlton early versus the schools who might offer in the future?

No, because not too many people knew about Carlton. West Virginia was the first one to offer him and then Illinois, but Carlton had played baseball and he was under the radar in basketball, so we just had him working hard in the gym with the trainer, stuff like that. I got him into that Hoop Group camp and that really helped him a lot, that was the best thing for him with exposure.

Is there any discussion about examining the reclassifying option?

He's going to stay in the 2015 class. 

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