UK Recruiting

Next Cats notes: UK target Bragg says game results won't influence college choice

Carlton Bragg (31) got a UK offer after lobbying for one. The Cats join Kansas, Illinois and UCLA as his finalists.
Carlton Bragg (31) got a UK offer after lobbying for one. The Cats join Kansas, Illinois and UCLA as his finalists. AP

WHEELING, W.Va. — At the very mention of the recent basketball game between Kentucky and UCLA, five-star power forward Carlton Bragg started laughing and shaking his head.

A couple of seconds later, Bragg was composed enough to respond.

"They had a day," he said with a smile. "Teams have their days."

That day for Kentucky included holding UCLA to just seven points in the first half before finishing off the Bruins with an 83-44 victory on national television. Both UK and UCLA are among the final four schools on Bragg's recruiting list.

Another of Bragg's finalists is Kansas, which UK defeated 72-40 this season. The 6-foot-8 prospect from Cleveland watched that one too, but he said neither game will have any bearing on his future plans.

"I still love them," he said of his other finalists. "Those games don't really factor into the decision."

Bragg scored 16 points and made two important buckets at the end of Villa Angela-St. Joseph's 69-67 victory over Arlington Country Day (Fla.) at the Cancer Research Classic on Friday night. The victory kept VASJ undefeated on the season.

UK Coach John Calipari and assistant coach Barry "Slice" Rohrssen attended the game along with Illinois assistant coach Dustin Ford. The Illini are the other team still on Bragg's list.

"It means they care and they want you," Bragg said of Calipari's trip to see him play.

Kansas Coach Bill Self and assistant Norm Roberts were supposed to be there, but weather issues prevented them from traveling.

Bragg — the No. 11 senior in the country, according to Scout.com — visited UK and Kansas for both schools' midnight madness events in October, and he's still setting up recruiting trips to Illinois and UCLA.

He does not have a timetable for his college decision.

Rough day

It wasn't a good Saturday for UK recruit Stephen Zimmerman and Bishop Gorman (Nev.) at the Cancer Research Classic.

The Gaels lost 75-45 to Simeon (Ill.), which is No. 12 in the latest USA Today rankings and has three starters committed to Big Ten schools.

Zimmerman had 12 points, four rebounds, five steals and five turnovers. He was 4-for-12 from the field.

The top-10 recruit in the class of 2015 recently narrowed his list to UK, Arizona, Kansas, UCLA and UNLV. Rohrssen was there for Saturday night's game. Calipari watched him play earlier in the week at the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Simmons excited

Ben Simmons was obviously happy with fellow five-star recruit Antonio Blakeney's decision to commit to Louisiana State on Friday.

"That was a big pickup for us," Simmons said Saturday morning. "That just opens up more opportunities for us. ... I liked playing with him (in AAU) and we play well together. We have a good friendship, and I think that's going to help us a lot."

Simmons is ranked by most recruiting services as the No. 1 prospect in the senior class. Blakeney is a consensus top-15 recruit. Together, the former AAU teammates give LSU the No. 6 class nationally for 2015.

The possible return of current sophomores Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey could make the Tigers a force in the SEC and beyond next season.

"If they stay, that's huge," Simmons said. "I think we could definitely be top 10 preseason."

Brunson goes bananas

The Cancer Research Classic has been host to some high-level talent over the past eight years.

Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Dakari Johnson, Emmanuel Mudiay and Tyreke Evans are among the prospects who have played in the event. None of them accomplished what Stevenson (Ill.) point guard Jalen Brunson did this weekend.

Brunson obliterated Okafor's event record by scoring 48 points in Friday night's loss to UK recruit Jayson Tatum and Chaminade (Mo.). The Villanova signee was 16-for-26 from the floor and made six of 13 three-point attempts.

Okafor's record was 32 points. Brunson tied that with 5:30 to go in the third quarter.

"He's probably the best point guard in the country," Tatum said. "He had a great night. Put on a show."

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