During the 2012 summer, rising sophomore Carlton Bragg captured our attention at the Hoop Group Future All-American Camp. There, the slender power forward showcased his coordination and developing skill level.
Even at such an early stage, West Virginia, Cleveland State, Xavier and Iowa all had initiated early contact. Bragg advanced into 2013 perceived as one of the most gifted prospects in the Class of 2015.
And for good reason. He performed impressively at the Pangos All-American Camp as well as the Elite 100, reinforcing his reputation as a top-shelf talent.
His recruitment exploded by the time he opened his junior season. Offers poured in from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio State, West Virginia, UCLA and Michigan State, and Michigan, Duke and North Carolina also reached out. Clearly, Bragg would proceed through his junior campaign as a key target for numerous major programs.
Bragg’s new few months locked him into blue-chip range, as overall he enjoyed a very strong spring and summer. His high point may have occurred at the prestigious NBPA Top 100 Camp, where he erupted for 36 points and 14 rebounds in a single contest. Given that players’ minutes are time-restricted at that event, those numbers become all the more impressive.
Bragg’s utility facing the rim clearly stands as his primary strongpoint. The transition didn’t always proceed smoothly, but he made significant progress between 2013 and 2014. He has stuck to his guns in terms of fashioning himself into the style of player he wants to be, and the results are paying off.
He has changed is body commendably over the past 18 months. Bragg still carries a solid frame, but he has trimmed down and leaned up. These days, he’s quicker than ever and possesses outstanding reflexes for a 6-9, 210-pound performer.
|Not frequently described as rugged, Bragg is an under-appreciated rebounder|
Playing for the Ohio Basketball Club on the Adidas Uprising circuit, Bragg averaged 16 points in 16 regular season games, and he led the entire Uprising with an average of 8.9 rebounds per contest — more than one full rebound greater than No. 2.
His improved rebounding once again owes to his enhanced quickness along with springy leaping ability, and no senior his size possesses better hand-eye coordination. Bragg catches nearly every pass tossed in his vicinity, and he can rebound out of his immediate area thanks to his reflexes and ability to corral boards with one hand.
Offensively, he looms as a long-term threat from deep. He shot an impressive 38 percent from long-range with the OBC, making the most of his opportunities. Bragg impressed me by taking far smarter shots this season than in the past, limiting himself to fewer than three triples per night and knocking them down at a solid rate.
He’s also a solid free throw shooter. Bragg’s work as a baseline finisher and offensive rebounder make him a nuisance to opponents at the rim, and he shot 76 percent on his freebies while taking a prolific 143 foul shots in those 16 games.
Meanwhile, he’s a fine (right-handed) dribbler who attacks off the bounce and a gifted passer who can surprise opponents with slick dishes on the break. Though not a natural defender yet at either forward spot, he holds the potential to guard most power forwards and moves his feet reasonably fairly well laterally to defend on the perimeter.
Despite his size, Bragg presently lacks a great post-up game. He possesses the tools — short turnaround, hooks, etc. — but almost always defaults to facing the basket. That tendency isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when factoring in how he’s likely to play professionally, but developing greater balance would help him overcome colder shooting nights.
He also needs to improve his left hand, both as a handler and a finisher. Bragg can drive into dense traffic as defenders know he prefers going right, and he shot under 50 percent overall with OBC — too low for a player so talented. His assist-turnover ratio on the Uprising circuit also was an alarming 11-37.
Bragg is unusual in the senior class for this reason: Both his short- and his long-term promise are very bright. Some players appear to be candidates for a strong freshman campaign, before leveling out over time, while others likely are several years away from making a sizeable impact.
But Bragg, with his skill, quickness, hops and eventual strength, should be ready to compete on day one while also having a lot of head room by which to add wrinkles. Add it all up and you have a near-certain prep All-American, who with just a little more polish could step in and be highly productive for his chosen winner next season.