Branden Carlson, the 69th ranked, four star center from Bingham High School (South Jordan, Utah) made news late Sunday evening by deciding to further his basketball career with the University of Utah Runnin’ Utes. Carlson’s commitment to Utah was a big win for the program as they had to fight off the appeal of the UCLA tradition and the benefits of a Stanford education.
The Utah native had narrowed his list to UCLA, Stanford and other local school, BYU, before ultimately deciding on becoming a Ute.
One of the main things that enticed the 6’10”, 210 pound high school senior to Utah is the fact that it is run by former NBA player, Larry Krystkowiak. Carlson has the same size, skill set and tenacity that helped Krystkowiak succeed as a player. Couple that with what Krystkowiak did to help current Toronto Raptor, Jakob Poeltl, develop and improve his game, and becoming a Ute seems like a great decision for Carlson.
Hands - In today’s style of fast paced offensive basketball it is extremely important to have a man in the post who can react to the movement on the perimeter, make himself a target and be ready to receive the ball at any time. The first thing that stands out in Carlson’s game is his soft hand. His ability to catch the ball cleanly around the basket and in traffic allows him to be very efficient offensively. Because he can catch the ball in stride, there is no need for him to take the extra time to gather himself before making a move, allowing him to beat the defense and get to the hoop extremely quick. Making him a tough match up in the paint.
Athleticism - Like the before mentioned Jakob Poeltl, Carlson is able to run the court rather quickly for a big man. He is capable of grabbing a defensive rebound, out-letting the ball and getting down to the other end of the court without slowing down the offense. Even more important, he can get behind the defenders and catch a long transition pass, take one dribble and get to the rim. With his hands and athleticism, Carlson is great at finishing at the rim.
Timing on Defense - At the high school level, Carlson has proven to be a menacing presence in the paint. Although he can always improve it, he has solid footwork on defense which allows him to be in the right position to contest shots without fouling. He has a good understanding of timing when to leave the floor to avoid contact and use his long arms to get a finger on the ball. His speed allows him to move with penetrating players and his length helps him man up the post play. He is a versatile defender.
What Can Improve
Strength - Up until now Carlson has been able to be effective simply by being longer and more athletic than opposing players. He will need to put on more strength and learn better how to use his body as a barricade, target and weapon. Getting a body on his man before fighting for a rebound will be an adjustment that will need to be made.
Shooting - Although Carlson has a very respectable hook shot anywhere inside of seven feet from the basket, he will need to develop more versatility in his shooting ability. In Utah’s offense he will need to be able to score in the low block with a defender bodied up against him as well as flashing up and hitting a 15 footer from the elbow when the opportunity arises. Being that he has good ball skills, improving his shot will just be a matter of repetition and get more comfortable on those spots of the court.
Carlson is classified as a 2017 recruit, but all signs point to the young man serving an LDS church mission following his senior year at Bingham. Depending on when he enters into the mission field he should be expected to be part of the Utah roster for the 2019-20 campaign. Until then Utah can feel great about winning the battle at keeping the top talent in the state close to home. Carlson will be a great addition to the Runnin’ Utes program.