What slump? KU’s Christian Braun will keep on shooting, making winning plays
For shooters on Bill Self’s teams, there’s a five-letter word that’s just as bad as any four-letter swear word: “slump.”
“I don’t like it if a guy were ever — a shooter — to ever admit that he’s in a slump,” Self said Friday.
And to his credit, sophomore guard Christian Braun didn’t spew such coarse language as “slump” while speaking with reporters on a video call earlier in the day. Rather, he said he was “just missing shots right now.”
The topic of Braun’s 3-point shooting came up ahead of Saturday’s home matchup with Iowa State, because, well, Braun hasn’t connected on many of his looks from beyond the arc recently.
After Braun, a 6-foot-6 guard who graduated from nearby Blue Valley Northwest High, went 16 for 36 (44.4%) in seven nonconference games to open the year, many expected him to continue burning KU opponents from downtown in conference play.
But his 3-point mark against Big 12 foes is 10 for 34 (29.4%) in six games. And that number is buoyed by one game in particular, against West Virginia, where he caught fire and went 6 of 12 from long range. Since the start of 2021, KU has played four games, in which Braun is a combined 4 for 19 (21.1%).
In total, Braun is 26 for 70 (37.1%) from 3-point range so far this season. He went 32 for 72 (44.4%) as a freshman.
Braun said he hadn’t noticed anything that was consistently affecting his shooting during KU’s 10-3 start.
“I just think I need to hit shots, shoot the ball better,” Braun said. “All that takes is just to keep shooting. I can’t go away from that. I know I’m a good shooter, and they’re going to fall eventually. I’ve just got to keep putting them up.”
That’s the perfect approach for a reliable shooter like Braun to take. It’s also part of the mindset his coach wants to see from him.
“I don’t think he’s in a slump,” Self said. “I think he’s missed shots.”
There are plenty of other ways to impact the outcome of a basketball game, of course. Self said that’s one of the first lessons he ever learned from his father, Bill Self Sr.
If Braun were just a 3-point specialist and nothing else, he wouldn’t be a starter at KU averaging 30.2 minutes per game. Braun is averaging 8.3 points while shots aren’t dropping for him in Big 12 play, but he also contributes 5.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steals. On the season, he has led or tied for the team lead twice in rebounds and three times each in assists and steals. He even led KU in blocks versus Kentucky with two.
Braun stands out by making hustle plays and winning plays. According to the numbers KU keeps, he has a team-high 17 floor burns this season.
Though Self always wants his players doing more on those fronts, the coach is not worried about Braun’s 3-point shooting.
“A guy that has a reputation of being a shooter, you should not base his good or poor play based on if the ball goes in the hole or not,” Self said. “There’s plenty of other things guys can do to bring value, to help a team win. And Christian’s certainly capable of doing that. And he knows that.”
Braun’s effort and execution in other aspects of the game, no doubt, have helped him remain composed about his 3-pointers.
“You know, a lot of them are going in and out,” Braun said. “I think I have (continued to be assertive). There’s been a couple of games where I went 1 for 5 or I’ve gotten enough up. I just need to hit the shots. And that’s on me.”
Even on days when those quality looks rim out, Braun is a valuable player for the Jayhawks. And when he is knocking down 3-pointers on top of everything else he does, it’s KU’s opponents who are doing the cursing.
Christian Braun’s 3-pointers through six Big 12 games
Dec. 17 at Texas Tech: 0-for-3, 2 points
Dec. 22 vs. West Virginia: 6-for-12, 22 points
Jan. 2 vs. Texas: 0-for-5, 4 points
Jan. 5 at TCU: 2-for-4, 10 points
Jan. 9 vs. Oklahoma: 1-for-6, 5 points
Jan. 12 at Oklahoma State: 1-for-4, 7 points