With the Kansas roster situation suddenly in a tumultuous state, it would be great to find out that, somehow, even after a year in the NBA, KU could get Christian Braun back in a Jayhawk uniform. Of course that’s pure fantasy, but it is a fact that Christian has a brother who is also a D1 basketball player. It is now also a fact, per Joe Tipton, that his brother will transfer to Kansas.
When Bill Self landed Michigan All-American transfer Hunter Dickinson, it put both Zuby Ejiofor and Earnest Udeh, two highly recruited sophomore centers, in a tough spot. They were expected to battle for the starting spot in the upcoming season, but were suddenly relegated to reserve minutes once again. As a result, both elected to transfer. Ejiofor has found a new home at St. John’s, while Udeh is still weighing his options. Bill Self was also weighing his options, since he now had no true big man to back up Dickinson.
The answer to that problem, at least in part, comes in the aforementioned Braun brother coming to Lawrence this fall. While Christian Braun would end up a star on the 2022 title team, a 1st round draft pick, and an NBA player getting real playing time on a team in the Western Conference finals, Parker Braun is not the same level of player. He committed to Missouri out of high school, but don’t worry, he didn’t stay there. After two years he was seeing very limited playing time and transferred to Santa Clara. He found a much better opportunity to get on the court in the WCC, averaging over 29 minutes per game in each of the last two seasons.
However, despite locking down the starting center spot, even at a mid major school, Braun did not find himself in a featured role. He averaged 6.9 and 7.7 points per game in his two seasons at Santa Clara, averaging just around six shot attempts per game. While he wasn’t a primary scorer, he does have range out to the three point line on his jumper. He put up 93 attempts across the last two seasons from deep, but while he shot a very respectable 34.2% as a junior, that dropped to just 25.5% as a senior. Despite standing 6’10, Braun has not shown much rebounding ability, finishing 9th in the WCC in defensive rebounding rate last year, and 15th on the offensive glass. Rebounding against Big 12 competition won’t do anything to boost those numbers. He did flash a respectable 4.2% block rate in conference play, which was 3rd in the WCC, giving at least some hope that he can provide some element of rim protection in the minutes he plays.
The number of minutes he plays, frankly, is likely to be pretty low. Dickinson will play as many minutes as he reasonably can at the 5, and Self showed last year that he has no problem using KJ Adams as a small-ball center. If we’re being honest, Braun doesn’t bring the same level of talent we’re used to seeing at Kansas, and he’ll likely be used situationally, when Dickinson is in foul trouble or needs a break, against teams where his height makes him a better choice than Adams. If he can play a few minutes here and there, knock down an occasional three, and block a shot when the opportunity arises, he’ll be filling the role that I’m guessing Bill Self sees for him.
Is this a huge addition to the roster? No. But the one place Kansas had absolutely no one on the roster was a backup center with legitimate height. They have that now in Braun, even if he figures to play somewhat sparingly. The Jayhawks still have two scholarship spots open, with the departure of the two big men from last year and Mackenzie Mgbako defying nearly every prediction by spurning Kansas for Indiana. I wouldn’t be shocked if Self adds another big man from the transfer portal, someone with more than just the one year of eligibility that Braun brings. More than anything, this was a chance to get a body into a position of need, and simultaneously bring in a guy who will likely be an instant fan favorite due to his brother’s popularity in his time at Kansas. Braun’s transfer won’t move the needle in terms of KU’s outlook for this season, but Hunter Dickinson needed a backup, and now he has an experienced one who should at least be able to fill in here and there when called upon.