When coaches and fans are frustrated with players, it often leads to a plea to do less. Stop taking those shots. Stop trying to force that play. But last year and through the offseason, the pleas for Christian Braun were the opposite. He was too passive, turning down open shots to force something for his teammates that weren’t there.
Heading into the season, one of the questions around this Kansas Jayhawks team was would Braun get the message from Self and be more assertive? So far, the answer is a resounding yes, and the Jayhawks are better for it.
Braun is averaging nearly 14 points per game and has taken 57 shots so far in six games, which is not much different than the start of last year, where he averaged 13 a game (this is a bit skewed as he had 30 against St. Joseph’s and then only broke double digits one other time in those six games) on 55 shots. But similar to Ochai Agbaji, it’s how he’s getting those nearly 10 shots per game that has mattered. Braun is playing through the offense seamlessly, getting easy baskets in the rhythm of the game. That’s why he’s shooting better than 60% from the field so far this year after finishing last year at just 38%. Unlike Remy Martin, who thrives in making difficult shots (this is a compliment, by the way), Braun is making life easy on himself, living on shots within five feet of the basket or open threes.
The assertiveness is also not just about points. Braun has always been a strong rebounder, but it’s at another level right now with him averaging more than seven boards per game. But the biggest jump is in his assists. Braun has 18 assists through six games and only against North Texas did he fail to register at least one assist. Last year, he had 11 assists through six games, but three of those games saw a donut in that category.
Perhaps more than any other Jayhawk so far, Braun has become a stat-stuffer. Take his last two games in the ESPN Events Invitational:
- Dayton: 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four steals
- Iona: 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, one block
It’s why he was the Jayhawk named to the ESPN Events Invitational All-Tournament Team.
Unlike last year, Kansas has players that can create shots. Not many can help the Jayhawks in as many ways as Braun can. The game seems to be slowing down for him and, so far, he is making the right decision more often than not. This is the Christian Braun that Self has been wanting. Now let’s see if he brings this game back from Florida with him.