Bragg incident provides lasting lesson for Jayhawks

Carlton Bragg and the Kansas Jayhawks warm up prior to their Nov. 11, 2016, meeting with Indiana, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Although misdemeanor battery charges against Kansas basketball forward Carlton Bragg Jr., were dropped on Wednesday, the lesson from his recent incident lingered into Thursday.

Junior guard Devonte’ Graham said the Jayhawks were happy things worked out for Bragg and were “definitely glad he’s back.” But the whole ordeal provided yet another opportunity for Kansas coach Bill Self to hammer home one of the most important realities about life as a Kansas basketball player.

“I won’t speak to that specific incident because I already have,” said Self during his regularly scheduled news conference on Thursday afternoon. “But the manner in which this particular situation transpired, I think was educational.”

Whether the lesson was gleaned from the dangers of Bragg putting himself in a bad situation to begin with or from how the sophomore forward handled himself once law enforcement officials became involved, Self said he thought having an up-close look at “something we talk about every day,” could be good for his players in the long run.

“You play basketball here or you’re a high-profile college athlete at a high-profile institution, you’re living in a glass house, so to speak,” Self said. “Part of the negative is people can see in. But if you’re taking care of your business and people can see in, it can be also a positive thing, as well.

“I think we should always be very conscious that we know we’re representing far more than ourselves every time we walk out of our dormitory or apartment. And I think our players, for the most part, do a pretty good job of that.”

Added Graham, who said his low-profile high school career kept him out of the most intense spotlights until he got to Kansas: “It’s a huge responsibility, you know. You’ve got a lot of eyes on you, especially around town. A lot of people know specifically who we are when we go places and things like that. There’s a lot of people watching you and you don’t know it. But coach stays on us about just doing the right thing as if nobody was watching and just representing yourself, your family and the organization…. It’s definitely a reality for any college athlete out there who’s at a big program. You’ve gotta just watch what you do.”

With the legal issue now a thing of the past, Bragg and the Jayhawks (9-1) can focus on Saturday’s 6 p.m. game against Davidson at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The Davidson clash will mark the Jayhawks’ first game in a week and also will give Bragg an opportunity to get back into the flow of things on the court after missing one game because of the incident.

Self said Bragg practiced throughout his one-game suspension and added that he hoped Bragg’s best basketball of the season was still ahead of him.

Averaging just 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in 16 minutes per game prior to sitting out last Saturday’s game against Nebraska, Bragg clearly was pressing at times and seemed frustrated that he was slow to live up to the enormous expectations many had for him entering his sophomore season.

Self said he had seen similar struggles happen to young players before and added that, because Bragg has put in the work and maintained a positive attitude about his game, he believed better days were ahead.

“I hope so,” Self said. “I think he’s certainly made an effort and I think he’ll be much better moving forward. Kids go through different things where different things become priorities and become stresses and those sorts of things. He’s certainly had some. And I’m not even talking about recent events. A lot of times kids go through them at the beginning of their sophomore year because usually their sophomore year their role is much different than it was before. It’s easy, from the cheap seats, to say, ‘Hey, when I get out there, I’ll be better.’ And then you get a chance to play and it hasn’t quite played out that way and it’s kind of humbling. So he’s gone through a little bit of that.”