Freshman Christian Braun on his first days on the court at KU
Kansas freshman guard Christian Braun has stopped by his alma mater, Blue Valley Northwest High School, more than once this summer.
“It’s such a nice fit because he’s just a 30-minute drive from home. He’s come back and watched a couple of our workouts, stays in touch with guys,” BV Northwest coach Ed Fritz said of the 6-foot-6 Braun, who has informed Fritz he’s thoroughly enjoyed attending summer school at KU.
“He loves everything about it. There’s nothing about it (KU) he doesn’t like,” Fritz added, speaking of the 2019 Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year and KBCA Mr. Kansas Basketball.
“I talk to him a lot. I think he is excited about the coaching part. He really wants to learn. He’s a guy who loves being in the gym. I think getting to mesh with the other players has been fun for him, too,” Fritz added.
Braun — he averaged 27.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists a game last season in leading the Huskies to a third-straight state title — said in a recent interview that he’s benefited from the NCAA rule that’s allowed him to work out with KU basketball staff members eight hours a week during the month of June into July.
The eight hours a week includes four hours of hands-on, on-court instruction with KU coaches. The other four hours consists of weight training and conditioning.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Braun said. “For me, the biggest adjustment is day in and out, the routine, playing against guys that are really good every single day. I get to compete against guys like Marcus (Garrett, junior guard) and Ochai (Agbaji, sophomore guard). I compete with them every day. That’s the biggest change from high school.
“Coach Fritz had a really structured program, too, obviously not at this level, but it’s a lot of the same stuff. The competition level rises when you get to KU,” Braun added.
Braun said he’s especially enjoyed experiencing Bill Self-led practices for the first time..
“Just being here, getting coached by coach Self and his voice at practice kind of let me know I’m actually playing for KU,” Braun said.
Being coached by Self means occasionally being corrected by Self.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Braun said. “Whatever happens happens. I’ve been jumped on my whole life. Coach Fritz is kind of like that. Coach Self is like that. My mom (former Missouri standout Lisa Sandbothe-Braun) is actually like that. Whatever the coach likes to do … I respond pretty well to anything.”
Fritz said that is indeed the case.
“I think he’s used to people getting on him. His mom was on him when she was his coach. I got on him a lot. I know coach Self will get on him more than I did,” Fritz said. “He’s ready for it. He’s a good player. They are getting a really good kid. He’s going to be a great fit there.”
Fritz sees the value in college players, especially newcomers such as Braun, getting to work out on campus and take a college class or two during the summer months.
“Knowing Christian he’ll go beyond that on his own,” Fritz said of the eight-hour limit. Indeed players are allowed to compete in an unlimited number of unsupervised pick-up games and also work out on their own while enrolled in summer school.
“I think it’s good to get used to some team stuff. He’s excited about the new players they got late. I think he’s excited to have coach Self yell at him and get it going.
“I’ve been real lucky. A lot of kids I’ve had love basketball,” added Fritz, whose teams have won five state titles in 17 seasons at BV Northwest.
“Gym rats love being in there, love playing. Christian from where he was as a 5-foot-8 freshman to where he is now keeps getting better and better. I think he’ll take another jump now that he’s in college,” Fritz added.
KU coach Self recently referred to Braun as a “winner” in introducing the player to several hundred youths at Self’s camp at Allen Fieldhouse.
“To be called a winner by a guy like coach Self who is one of the best and biggest winners in basketball history means a lot,” said Braun. The Huskies went 85-15 during his prep career. “I’d love to be a part of what he does and what this program does. Winning at that level is a lot higher level than I’ve won at. Just being called that means a lot. I want to win at the highest level. I think coach will help me do that.”
He’s off to a good start.
“I mean he is really tough. That’s what I learned. He’s tough. He doesn’t back down. He’s always stepping up to the challenge,” Agbaji, a graduate of Oak Park High School, said of Braun.
“Christian always wants to play hard. He always goes after the ball. He’s able to shoot the ball, get the ball to teammates,” noted fellow freshman Tristan Enaruna.
Of Braun, who was ranked No. 93 in the recruiting Class of 2019 by Rivals.com, Self said: “He’s a winner cut from the same cloth so many guys we’ve had here, a lot of local kids we’ve had that have been recruited but not at the same level many are (nationally). They get here and find out they are as good as anybody anywhere, whether it’s Tyrel (Reed, No. 109 ranking in Class of 2007), Brady (Morningstar, unranked in 2006) or Travis (Releford, No. 70 in Class of 2008).
“Obviously Ochai (No. 145 in Class of 2018) will be terrific and he wasn’t recruited highly as well. Issac McBride (No. 106 in Class of 2019) is the same way. These guys are going to be really good players,” Self added.
KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend, who works with the guards at practice, said Braun has been putting in maximum effort to get used to college basketball as quickly as possible.
“He’s been a sponge,” Townsend said. “He’s fitting in great. He tries really hard. Like most freshmen, it’s always a learning curve. He’ll find his niche. He goes after balls. He really rebounds well for a guard. He’s got to be able to shoot it better, stuff like that. He’s just starting. He’s getting there.”