NCB On The Trail: Carlton Bragg

After the early-signing period, Kentucky is at the top of the class rankings. But with seven of the top-10 prospects in the ESPN 100 still uncommitted, there is plenty of work left to be done before the best class in the land is crowned.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the No. 1 class contenders, what they would have to do to finish in the top spot and what their chances are of finishing there (percentage):

Kentucky (75 percent)

Yes, the Wildcats are No. 1 now, but ironically none of their three commitments -- Skal Labissiere (No. 11), Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13), and Charles Matthews (No. 44) -- are from a top-10 ranked player in the class and so they’re far from a sure thing. John Calipari will likely look to add two more pieces to his class, one in the frontcourt and another in the backcourt. If he can get Ivan Rabb (No. 5), Cheick Diallo (No. 7), Caleb Swanigan (No. 8), Stephen Zimmerman (No. 10) or Carlton Bragg (No. 18) up front and then Jaylen Brown (No. 2), Malik Newman (No. 3), Brandon Ingram (No. 12) or Antonio Blakeney (No. 14) in the backcourt, UK has a good chance of finishing on top. If they have a mass exodus to the pros, and end up taking more than two players off this list, the top ranking will be a virtual certainty.

Kentucky reclaims familiar No. 1 spot 

November, 14, 2014
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Heading into Thursday afternoon, Kentucky had a borderline top-40 recruiting class nationally. There was just one player in the fold, four-star guard Charles Matthews.

Less than one hour later, Kentucky was back in a familiar spot -- with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

The Wildcats landed commitments from Skal Labissiere (No. 11 in the ESPN 100) and Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13). Labissiere might have the highest ceiling of any prospect in the class, and Briscoe’s strong summer cemented his status as the premier point guard in 2015.


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Roundtable: Analyzing the early signing period 

November, 12, 2014
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College basketball's early signing period begins Wednesday, and while 78 of the ESPN 100's prospects have committed to schools across the country, it's time to put pen to paper. Our RecruitingNation analysts break down what they expect to see before the signing window closes on Nov. 19.


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UCLA may already have a pair of ESPN 100 commitments on the books in the class of 2015, but the next two weeks will go a long way toward determining the ultimate strength of the class.

For Steve Alford to return the program to the level that UCLA was once known for, and still expects to be, the second-year head coach needs five-star recruits who can come in and be difference makers from Day 1. He also needs to make a habit of getting them on an annual basis.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Ingram
Kelly Kline/Under ArmourLanding Brandon Ingram would go a long way to solidify UCLA's 2015 recruiting class.
Kevon Looney was that type of guy last year. 2016 commit Lonzo Ball is similarly impressive.

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Last weekend, Kentucky had about 90 NBA scouts on its campus for a practice that was televised on ESPNU -- yet this weekend will feature an even bigger event for the Wildcats.

Friday brings Big Blue Madness to Lexington, where the Kentucky faithful will pack Rupp Arena for their first look at the 2014-15 edition of the Wildcats, the likely preseason No. 1 team in the country. More important, it is also the biggest recruiting weekend of the year for John Calipari and Kentucky. Seven five-star prospects from the classes of 2015 and 2016 are expected on campus this weekend, in addition to four-star commit Charles Matthews.

Calipari and his staff haven’t tried to downplay the event to the prospective recruits, either.

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Uncommitted prospects talk recruitment 

September, 18, 2014
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With the early November signing period quickly approaching, it’s time to take a look at the uncommitted prospects in 2015.

These six players spell out when and where they’re visiting, and what they’re looking for in their eventual destination.


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Adidas Super 64 recap 

July, 25, 2014
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LAS VEGAS -- It was our first look at the national talent on the Adidas side of things and we did not go home disappointed. Hosting the Adidas Super 64 at the Cashman Center allows coaches and scouts to stay at one venue and take in the talents of fast-rising senior Jaylen Brown as well as the multi-faceted game of super junior Miles Bridges. However, there were a couple of highly ranked seniors that didn't match the Vegas heat as their performance would fall under the "too cool" category.

Best Senior

[+] EnlargeJaylen Brown
Kelly Kline/AdidasSeveral big-name college coaches were in attendance to watch small forward Jaylen Brown take to the court in Las Vegas.
Jaylen Brown

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The NBPA top 100 dream team 

June, 23, 2014
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After watching over 100 prospects at the NBPA top 100 camp during a four-day period, I thought who would I want to coach if I had one practice before playing one game.

I am making my decisions based on their performances and stats from the camp courtesy of Statva.com, along with prior evaluations from the high school year and the spring evaluation period.

Assembling this team wasn't just about sheer talent. It was more about the prospects’ skill level, productivity, and how well they know their roles and are able to blend their talent into a team concept. The roster below has everything I would want and need to win a game.

Here is the starting lineup, sixth man, and bench:

Starting lineup


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Five 2015 classes off to fast starts 

June, 3, 2014
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As we turn our attention to the Class of 2015 and the newly released ESPN 100, here’s a look at five college basketball programs that have a head start on the 2015 recruiting trail:


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With Myles Turner's commitment to Texas serving as an unofficial close to the 2014 recruiting class, it’s time to focus on the 2015 crop.

Here are 10 questions that the recruiting world will seek to answer in the next year:

1. Will it be one and done?


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#AskCoachB: Future for Kansas

March, 31, 2014
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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.
Freshman center Joel Embiid has yet to officially announce his NBA draft decision, but it looks like fellow freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins will do so on Monday. The school released a statement that the 6-foot-8 freshman from Canada will make an announcement at 3 p.m. ET. When you have an announcement set up, it usually means you are going somewhere, not staying.

Looking ahead to 2015, Naadir Tharpe will be graduating next year, which makes point guard an absolute need in the 2015 class. Everyone will also be keeping tabs on returning wing Wayne Selden and incoming freshmen Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre next season.

The Jayhawks' needs in 2015 could be many depending on which players declare for the NBA draft next year. Here is an early peek at their wish list in 2015. On the perimeter there's Malik Newman, Jalen Brunson, Jalen Adams, Antonio Blakeney, Montaque Gill-Ceasar and P.J. Dozier. Dozier, who has been sidelined with a knee injury this year, will be back and has already shown the talent to be a high-major prospect.

The main targets for the frontcourt are ESPN 60 No. 1 Ivan Rabb, Diamond Stone, Stephen Zimmerman, Chase Jeter and Carlton Bragg.

This is an early, fluid list of recruits Kansas has targeted. There is a very good chance this list will change after the spring evaluation period.

Top players at Ohio state finals 

March, 24, 2014
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The Ohio high school boys basketball championships were this past weekend on the Ohio State campus in Columbus and featured many of the state's and the Midwest's best players.

In Division IV, Convoy Crestview beat Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas 71-44 to complete an undefeated season. In Division III, Lima Central Catholic upset the talented Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph squad 64-62. In Division II, Norwalk prevented Columbus Watterson from being repeat champions by winning 65-58. In Division I, Lakewood St. Edward defeated Upper Arlington 62-58 in overtime in what was one of the best high school games I have ever seen.

Best Player
Kipper Nichols
Lakewood, Ohio/St. Edward
6-foot-6, 200 pounds, 2015 SF

Nichols really stepped up and showed why he is one of the most improved players in the Midwest. The multi-skilled combo forward made the state finals his personal showcase. Nichols had 25 in the semifinal vs. Cleveland East Tech and then put 26 on Upper Arlington in the final. Nichols is a tough cover with solid perimeter skills and the ability to operate in the paint as well. He is one of the best players in Ohio's 2015 class.


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The Michigan Wolverines are having another strong season on the court this year, despite losing a pair of NBA players in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. They are on top of the Big Ten standings playing without one of their main weapons in Mitch McGary, who had back surgery.

One thing that is evident under John Beilein and staff: They put effort into their evaluations and it pays off because most of their recruits fit their system.

Projecting needs for the 2015 class could vary based on who departs for the NBA, transfers and, of course, graduation. Their class for 2014 is ranked at No. 39. This is not a complete list, but here are some main targets for the Wolverines in the Class of 2015:

Stephen Zimmerman (Las Vegas /Bishop Gorman) Jalen Brunson (Chicago/Stevenson), Luke Kennard (Franklin, Ohio/Franklin) Carlton Bragg (Cleveland/ St. Joseph's), Diamond Stone (Milwaukee/ Dominican), Eric Davis (Saginaw, Mich./ Arthur Hill), Henry Ellenson (Rice Lake, Wis./Rice Lake).

Mustang Madness recap 

January, 13, 2014
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The inaugural Mustang Madness held at the new McCracken County High School in Paducah, Ky., was quite a success. The tournament is run by the same crew that puts together the famous Marshall County Hoopfest.

[+] EnlargeCliff Alexander
AP Photo/Damen Jackson/Triple Play New MediaCliff Alexander is ranked No. 3 in the ESPN 100.
Beast of the East
Cliff Alexander (Chicago/Curie)
2014, PF/C, 6-foot-9, 240 pounds
Signed with: Kansas
The big fella was his normal, dominant self in Curie’s victory over Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph, scoring 25 points. There is no more athletic and productive insider in the country. He has a solid touch and should be able to become an effective face-up player in time. He reminds me of a young Amare Stoudamire.

Best Improvement

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First of all, that's a great question because the Blue Devils will -- in all likelihood -- lose Jahlil Okafor after one season. I would not get caught up as to who can play the 5-spot. You can win in college basketball with elite power forwards if they do their job by defending and showing the ability to defend bigger players and rebound. It's important they display the skill to score both inside and away from the basket. Duke will need size in 2015.

In addition to ESPN No. 5 Diamond Stone (Milwaukee, Wis./ Dominican) who the Blue Devils have made deep inroads with, Duke is involved with the big man from Texas -- ESPN No. 6 Elijah Thomas (Lancaster, Texas/Lancaster) and super shot blocker and ESPN No. 8 Skal Labissiere (Memphis, Tenn. Evangelical Christian).

Speaking of elite power forwards, the Blue Devils are in the mix for ESPN No. 10 Carlton Bragg (Cleveland, Ohio/ St. Joseph) and ESPN No. 37 Chase Jeter(Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman), who is an above average post up player and rebounder.

We are a long way from 2015, but for college coaches who are recruiting, the early period is when you begin your evaluations and show attention to the ones you want to get.

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