Cleveland VASJ sophomore blossoms into one of country’s elite prospects

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Cleveland VASJ’s Carlton Bragg

For Cleveland VASJ sophomore Carlton Bragg, business is about to pick
up. The 6-foot-9 Bragg will have nearly every major college in the
country monitoring him over the course of the next three months. Ohio State, Illinois, Cincinnati, Dayton and others have offered.


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For Cleveland VASJ sophomore Carlton Bragg, business is about to pick up. The 6-foot-9 Bragg will have nearly every major university in the country monitoring him over the course of the next three months.

Bragg, who is already a national name, will garner even more attention in the coming months as more-and-more onlookers begin to recognize his immense talent. The Cleveland native will be playing with the Ohio Basketball Club on the AAU circuit along with competing at the Adidas Nations, Pangos All-American Camp, and the NBPA Top 100 Camp, which are some of the most prestigious events in the country.

All of this attention is rather amazing considering this time last year Bragg was an unknown on the national scene and barely a prominent figure in Ohio. The gangly Bragg averaged just under five points per game as a freshman at St. Joe’s, and didn’t attempt a three-point shot being overshadowed by the likes of Demonte Flannigan, Duane Gibson, and fellow frosh Brian Parker.

Fast forward a year, and things have drastically changed for Bragg. Not only did he help lead the Vikings to a Division IV state championship, but Bragg was second on the team in scoring at 16 points per game and led the team in three-point makes with 42 by shooting a very efficient 42 percent behind the arc. He also added a smidge over five rebounds a game.

To many, he wasn’t even remotely the same player. So, when did it all change? Bragg’s mentor, Michael Graves, who is also an assistant coach at VASJ and a high school teammate of VASJ head coach Babe Kwasniak, points to one event in particular.

“I would say the Hoop Group Camp last summer,” Graves noted. “I drove him six hours to Philadelphia (PA), dropped him off, and came back and picked him up. I was getting all kinds of texts about how good he was playing, and people wanting to know who he was. That really got him on the radar.”

Improvement doesn’t just happen with age, and with Bragg’s remarkable overall growth as a player required plenty of hard work and dedication to his craft.

“The big difference between his freshman and sophomore years came with the development of his shot,” Graves believed. “Bob Nantz really developed his shot. Playing with OBC (Ohio Basketball Club) where he had to be the guy has also made him better. OBC may not be the best team out there, but it’s the best fit for him. They have no stars and work together as a team. It’s really helping him out a lot.”

While his shot has really improved and been his go to offensive weapon, Bragg is continuing to work on his ball handling and basket drives. He is also working to improve his upper body strength. At this point, he either shoots the three-point shot, mid-range, or dunks.

On defense, he has the ability to be a game changer. Schools really likes the way he is able to play helpside by funnelling over to block shots. When Bragg is active on the defensive end, he has the ability to be dominant.

Bragg will have his pick of just about any school of his choice, so how will he go about sorting through all of the sales pitches.

“It will have to be the right fit,” Graves mentioned. “Coaching style and the coach’s demeanor will also be factors. Carlton has to be comfortable, have the right support staff, and it has to be a good fit for him and his family.”

With the laundry list of schools interested in this stretch four man that means some of these universities will be more than a quick car ride from Cleveland. We asked Graves if distance from home would be an issue in the process.

“Location shouldn’t be a big factor,” Graves said. “He likes to travel.”

Bragg is open to anything at this point and really looking forward to going through the process, but Graves is more focused on Carlton keeping up with his school work and development on the court.

Bragg’s list is long, but it appears two or maybe three schools are standing out at this point. Illinois, Ohio State, and Texas are high on his list for different reasons.

“Illinois has really stepped up its recruitment,” Graves told us. “They have been at every AAU game since they were allowed out. He is a priority at Illinois. I met with Coach (John) Groce for lunch last week, and they love him and they want him. Carlton likes Illinois style of play, and they shoot the three. Groce is a class act.”

The Buckeyes are at the front of the class as well.

“Ohio State is close to home,” Graves stated. “Thad Matta’s personality. Just being an Ohio kid and everybody watches Ohio State. They have been there from the start. They want to keep him close to home and he is a priority.”

The third school in the early running would be Texas. If you have ever seen Carlton Bragg or seen him play it would be pretty clear as to why.

“He likes Texas because he is a big Kevin Durant fan,” Graves laughed. “I talk to them about once a week. They want updates on him about AAU and how he is doing.”

Ohio State, Illinois, Cincinnati, Dayton, West Virginia, and Cleveland State have all offered.

Other schools showing interest are Michigan State, Georgetown, Akron, Kent State, Louisville, Texas, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Depaul, Wake Forest, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Duke, and Kansa.

Bragg and his OBC teammates won the Adidas Hoops Challenge this past weekend in Cleveland. Bragg scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the championship game. John Groce, Thad Matta, and Tom Crean (Indiana) watched him play on Saturday morning.

Bragg is hoping to visit Illinois and Ohio State in June along with possible trips to Louisville, Kentucky, Duke, and Indiana in the near future.

The Ohio Basketball Club will be at the Bill Hensley Memorial Run-n-Slam this weekend in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Beyond the Court:

*Carlton Bragg is 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds.

*The doctor believes he will grow to be 6-foot-11 considering his father is 7-foot-2 and his mother is 6-foot-2.

*Bragg loves to fish. When he was younger, his grandfather use to take him fishing.

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