If there’s anyone who has a strong claim for the Border War rivalry to return, it’s Lisa Braun.
The mother of Missouri basketball forward Parker Braun and incoming Kansas freshman Christian Braun said without question that she prefers her sons play against one another. Not every family in college athletics prefers that.
But the prospect of her sons facing off does not faze the former Missouri women’s basketball star. She’s rooting for the rivalry to come back more than anyone.
“I think the Border War brings nothing but excitement, money, everything,” she told The Star. “I don’t think anyone disagrees with that. I say bring it back.”
Ever since Parker Braun committed to Missouri a year ago and his brother to the Jayhawks a few months later, those around the family have been hoping there comes a day when the former Blue Valley Northwest standouts play in a KU-MU basketball game.
First, both have to beat out the numerous players around them to be in their team’s rotations for the upcoming season, a tall task given the amount of talent both teams return.
Parker Braun raised a lot of eyebrows last May when he passed on offers from Nebraska, LSU, Arizona and Mississippi to go to Missouri with the agreement that he’d walk on and redshirt for a year before being put on scholarship this summer.
“I visited a couple places and just kind of texting the staff, getting to know the players, it just didn’t really feel right,” he told The Star. “I figured I’d much rather come here and be closer to home. The recruitment stuff, it all came kind of fast.”
As a sophomore at Blue Valley Northwest, Parker Braun came off the bench for the junior-varsity team and was nearly cut, according to coach Ed Fritz. But Braun grew 8 inches in a year and more into his body after getting injured in the early part of his growth spurt. Lisa Braun attributes most of her son’s injuries to still learning how to use his size.
Parker Braun then started on the varsity team as a junior and knew he had potential when Fritz told him as a sophomore that he could be the team’s best player the following season. The coach made the declaration in front of both the JV and varsity teams, a comment the 6-foot-8 forward said puzzled his teammates. A reserved personality, Braun said that was the first time he was told of his potential.
“He put that in my head, and he made me believe in myself,” Braun said.
As a senior, Braun averaged 11.6 points, seven rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game while shooting 43 percent from three, leading BV Northwest to the Kansas 6A state championship. When Braun committed to Missouri, he knew he’d have to bulk up and has added roughly 17 pounds of muscle to his frame.
During Braun’s redshirt season, MU went 15-17 and struggled to get production out of the power forward position after losing Jontay Porter for the season to an ACL tear. While some fans wondered if Braun could have made a difference, he has no regrets about sitting out the whole season.
“I think for sure last year was the best decision to redshirt,” he said. “I wasn’t really ready.”
Braun faces stiff competition to get into MU’s rotation, as he’ll have to compete against freshmen Tray Jackson and Kobe Brown as well as junior Mitchell Smith.
He said he has an advantage over Jackson and Brown because his body has spent a year in a college weight room and also has experience that neither player does. Being a defensive-minded player doesn’t hurt in Cuonzo Martin’s program either.
Martin is high on Braun’s ceiling but wants to see him be a better finisher at the rim without having to dunk.
Christian Braun, on the other hand, faces stiff competition in KU’s backcourt with the return of Devon Dotson, Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett, and the additions of graduate transfer Isaiah Moss and top-50 recruit Jalen Wilson.
So how similar are the Braun brothers’ games?
Fritz said both brothers are good shooters, but Christian is more a traditional guard, while Parker is a forward.
“I’ve never handled the ball, and he’s never been inside,” Parker Braun summarized.
While the Braun brothers are close, the rivalry has already started to affect their relationship. After being told his older brother was now on scholarship at Missouri, Christian Braun replied, “I love Parker, but I hate Missouri.”
Lisa Braun said the two didn’t watch games together last winter when Parker was home for break and elected to watch college basketball in separate rooms, with Mizzou on one TV and KU on another.
She hasn’t always helped the situation either, sneaking a Missouri shirt into Christian Braun’s dormitory in Lawrence when she helped him move in at KU.
It doesn’t appear Parker Braun took the comments personally. Parker and Christian’s father, Donny, went to KU, and the family is used to trading shots.
“Coming here, you have to hate KU,” Parker said. “I’ll always follow (Christian) and watch his games, but I can’t root for the whole KU team.”