More size is headed to the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team.
This time, it comes in the form of former McDonald’s All-American and former Kansas Jayhawk Carlton Bragg, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound power forward who has already enrolled in classes, on his own dime, at UNM with the hopes of playing for the Lobos beginning in December of the 2018-19 season. He would then have one and a half seasons of playing eligibility remaining.
“He’s tremendously talented,” Lobos head coach Paul Weir said of Bragg. “He’s run into a myriad of things on and off the court over the past few years that have kind of led him here. Every young man has his journey. We spent a lot of time discussing that and also discussing how that journey may continue here and what that may entail. This isn’t for everybody, what we do from a training perspective, what we do from a team perspective. … We’re just a little different here.”
Though not on scholarship, Weir said Bragg will be allowed to practice with the team when he moves to Albuquerque from Phoenix, where he had been attending Arizona State until leaving the Sun Devils program in December for unspecified reasons. He did not play a game for ASU, but remains in good academic standing, UNM says.
If Bragg makes it through the spring semester without incident, he’ll be offered a scholarship, Weir said, and would be the fourth of six players joining the team next season that have previous Division I experience at a high-major program.
Bragg, who is from Cleveland, was ranked as the No. 21 overall high school recruit in the class of 2015 by ESPN and Rivals.com and 24th overall by Scout.com. He attended Saturday’s UNM win over San Diego State in Dreamstyle Arena — the Pit. While he told Weir and the coaching staff he liked what he saw, both sides were still deciding early this week if it was the right fit for both parties, including Bragg’s family (he has a girlfriend and young child who factored into the decision).
“I have had a long journey with many life experiences, but I am ready to get to New Mexico and get to work,” Bragg said in a statement released by UNM. “The style of play, the training, the team atmosphere, it’s everything I want to be a part of. I just can’t wait to get there and get started.”
Bragg transferred from Kansas after having been suspended for four games last season and enrolled at Arizona State for the fall semester.
Last season at Kansas, Bragg averaged 5.2 points and 4.1 rebounds and 13.8 minutes per game. Among the off-the-court issues reported in the Kansas City Star was a one-game suspension after Bragg was initially accused of misdemeanor battery only to have police later charge the woman in that case instead and dismiss all charges against Bragg. He also had a drug paraphernalia charge dismissed after successfully completing a diversion program.
Weir said it was a talk he had with Babe Kwasniak, Bragg’s old Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School coach in Cleveland, that made him feel Bragg was worth taking a chance on despite those off-court issues.
“I think everyone knew how good of a player he was back then and what he had become,” Weir said. “I think his high school coach and the people around him then were tremendous for him just as far as giving him guidance and discipline in his life and holding him really accountable day in and day out. Knowing that he’s capable of that and knowing that he’s capable of working with a coach like that made me feel really good that this is possible.”
If all expectations are met at UNM for the embattled former Jayhawk, Weir could place him on scholarship after the 2018 spring semester, though he will not be eligible to play until December since he did not enroll at UNM until this semester. Except in special circumstances, the NCAA required transfers be enrolled at their new school two full semesters before being allowed to play, which is why he won’t play until the fall 2018 semester concludes in December, though Weir said UNM may still pursue a waiver that would allow him to play sooner.
Bragg let the Lobos coaching staff know for sure he would come to UNM on Wednesday and made the decision public to all on Thursday on social media.
“This has been a long journey and a lifelong learning experience. I’m ready to help New Mexico I’m ready to get to work and help the Lobos. The style of play, the training, and the team atmosphere is exactly what I am looking for. I can’t wait to get there and get goin(sic),¨ Bragg wrote on Twitter.
This has been a long journey and a life long learning experience. I’m ready to help New Mexico I’m ready to get to work and help the Lobos. The style of play, the training, and the team atmosphere is exactly what I am looking for. I can’t wait to get there and get goin ✅🙌🏾💯 pic.twitter.com/yDUKeM6u2s
— Carlton Bragg (@carltonbragg31) January 25, 2018
In May, Bragg left Kansas and chose Arizona State as his transfer destination over Cincinnati and Illinois. Out of high school, he chose Kansas over Kentucky and Illinois.
Bragg will join a list of 2018-19 Lobos who are already at UNM and sitting out this season per NCAA transfer rules — 6-9 sophomore wing Vance Jackson, who started as a freshman last year at Connecticut, and 6-5 junior guard JaQuan Lyle, who started the past two seasons at Ohio State.
Other UNM newcomers expected to join the team over the summer include four-star high school recruit Drue Drinnon, a 6-foot high school senior point guard from Georgia who is playing at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University School, 6-9 sophomore forward Tajuan Agee of Tyler (Texas) Junior College, and Isaiah Maurice, a 6-10 forward/center from South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, who started his career at Kansas State.
The scholarships expected to open for UNM this offseason include those of seniors Antino Jackson, Joe Furstinger, Sam Logwood and Connor MacDougall. In the case of MacDougall, he has not made known his final decision whether to redshirt this season after spraining his ankle in October, and his future with the program next year is uncertain because of it.
The 6 new Lobos for 2018-19
• PF Carlton Bragg, 6-10, Kansas (transfer, enrolled at UNM)
• G JaQuan Lyle, 6-5, Ohio St. (transfer, redshirting now at UNM)
• F Vance Jackson, 6-9, UConn (transfer, redshirting now at UNM)
• F/C Isaiah Maurice, 6-10, South Plains JC/Kansas State
• PG Drue Drinnon, 6-0, Ft. Lauderdale University HS
• F Tajuan Agee, 6-9, Tyler (Texas) Junior College