May 6, 2013

Bragg keeping tabs on UK coaches

With the Spiece Run-N-Slam in Fort Wayne (Ind.) wrapping up on Sunday night, the focus of media and scouts in attendance shifted from which teams were winning games back to recruiting and evaluating top players.

While the two big men from Chicago's (Ill.) Mac Irvin Fire never made it to the event, five-star forward Trey Lyles certainly gives Kentucky followers something to be excited about.

In addition, there's one sophomore that has drawn Big Blue interest who showed as much potential at the event as any player not named Lyles. Here's Cats Illustrated's final thoughts from the loaded Midwest AAU event.

Staying in Touch
As the Ohio Basketball Club 16-and-under team finished off their weekend with a 5-1 overall record, the talk of the Spiece Run-N-Slam was just how far 2015 four-star Carlton Bragg has come in the last year.

The 6-foot-9 power forward from Cleveland (Oh.) Villa Angela-Saint Joseph's played up to the standards that you would expect from the no. 27 prospect in the 2015 Rivals Top 50, punishing defenders with his unique combination of size, athleticism and skill.

One thing that you might not expect from a player like Bragg is his energy off of the court. Late in two OBC wins, with Bragg resting on the bench with the other starters, the sophomore played the role of 6-foot-9 cheerleader, showing more of an interest in his teammates' success than his own.

OBC was eventually bounced from the tournament in the quarterfinals by the Louisville Magic in a close game, but afterwards, Bragg caught up with Cats Illustrated to talk about recruiting and his play.

"I've been playing pretty well this weekend," said Bragg. "We've been winning and sharing the ball as a team and that got us a lot of wins.

"I'm trying to attack and take people off of the dribble. When I don't see my shot falling then I try and stay inside and score."

After making even more strides in front of college coaches in April at the Pittsburgh Jam Fest and then the Adidas Hoops Challenge, Bragg has seen his recruitment continue to elevate.

"I noticed Indiana, Illinois and Ohio State at a lot of my games in April," Bragg said. "So far those guys and Iowa are standing out to me as the most interested, but I've also got a lot of other offers."

Of those three schools, it seems like the in-state Buckeyes have made the biggest impression on Bragg.

"Ohio State really stands out, probably the most, because David Lighty went to our school," said Bragg. "He told me that it was a great place to be and that hopefully I choose wisely and go there."

Some of those other offers include Texas, Missouri, West Virginia, Xavier and Dayton. But, additionally, schools like Louisville, Florida, UCLA, and of course, Kentucky have show significant interest.

While Wildcats coaching staff was unable to make it to any of Bragg's games during the April evaluation period, as they focused more on prospects from the class of 2014, the Cleveland four-star says he has been in close contact with Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua.

"I haven't talked to Kentucky a ton but I do make sure to keep in touch with them," said Bragg. "They said that they really like my game and for me to stay positive and keep in touch."

Bragg said that Kentucky and Indiana are the schools that he is most interested in visiting over the summer, adding that he has never been down to Lexington before.

Lyles Dominates Elite Prospects
While Trey Lyles didn't have anything new to say about recruiting other than what was discussed on Friday night (LINK), the five-star forward did let his play do a lot of talking during the bracket rounds on Saturday night and Sunday.

In defeating five-star forwards Kevon Looney (Milwaukee Runnin' Rebels) and LeRon Black (Team Thad), as well as a talented Eric Gordon All-Stars team, Lyles proved that even though he is just coming back from injury, he is still the top power forward on the Nike circuit.

Speaking of Looney and Black, both remain adamant that they have not had any recent conversations of any kind with Kentucky coaching staff.

The 6-foot-10 four man showed that he can handle the ball in space, taking it coast to coast for driving layups or dunks through traffic, knocked down mid-range jumpers more consistently than he did on Friday, and was much more comfortable in chasing down out of area rebounds.

Now that Lyles is back to full health, and starting to get back into playing shape, expect him to be a force in the Nike EYBL this coming weekend in Dallas and then at the regular season finale over Memorial Day weekend in Minneapolis.

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