High school basketball: VASJ's Carlton Bragg headed to Italy for adidas Eurocamp

Jeff Forman/JForman@News-Herald.com Carlton Bragg slam dunks during VASJ's 82-71 win over Mentor Sunday in the Dunk4Diabetes Shootout at Walsh University in North Canton.

Carlton Bragg is taking his talents to Italy.

No, the five-star recruit from Villa Angela-St. Joseph isn't skipping his senior year of high school to play professionally in Europe. He's just spending a handful of days overseas after accepting an invitation to participate in the prestigious adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy.

Bragg, one of the top recruits in the nation in the Class of 2015, is one of 10 players chosen from the United States to comprise the USA's 18-and-under team in the adidas camp. The camp runs June 7 through June 9 and includes drills, stations and games involving teams from France and Canada.

Waiting for his plane to depart from Cleveland on June 4, Bragg said he was itching to make his first trip overseas and sink his teeth into international competition.

'I want to be the best player I can be,' he said. 'I want to get my name out there. I want to open some eyes.'

Frankly, there aren't many eyes around major college basketball that haven't been opened to Bragg already. In the most recent national rankings, Bragg is ranked anywhere from seventh (247Sports), to eighth (Scout.com), to 10th (Rivals.com) or 14th (ESPN.com) in the Class of 2015, depending on which recruiting network is consulted.

'Those don't matter to me, They're just rankings,' Bragg said. 'Sometimes I pay attention to where they've got me ranked, but it really doesn't matter.'

What matters most, he said, is what happens on the court. That makes this trip to Italy, the rest of his 2014 AAU schedule with the Ohio Basketball Club and his senior year at VASJ of the utmost importance.

Bragg's list of potential suitors is a Who's Who of College basketball, with offers from all over the nation, such as Ohio State, Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, Arizona, Illinois and West Virginia - to name a handful.

The adidas Eurocamp will give him a chance to team up with other great prep players from across the nation, such as Thon Maker (five-star 7-footer from Martinsville, Va.), De'Ron Davis (four-star forward from Aurora, Colo.), Dante Hales (6-10 forward from Dallas), Matur Maker (6-10 sophomore from Martinsville, Va.), Jaylen Brown (five-star forward from Marietta, Ga.), Brandon Ingram (four-star guard from Kinston, N.C.), Maverick Rowan (four-star guard from Midland, Pa.), Dennis Smith Jr. (five-star guard from Fayetteville, N.C.) and Kobi Simmons (four-star guard from Alpharetta, Ga.)

'I know the whole team,' said Bragg, noting the many tournaments he's played in that gave him an opportunity to meet his teammates. 'It was a real honor to be chosen to play. I was just working hard, trying to get better at my game and I got chosen.

'I just want to go there, get better and have a good experience.'

Among the coaches listed on the camps website are former NBA players Mo Cheeks, Trajan Langdon, Lionel Hollins and Popeye Jones. Among the guest speakers is former Los Angeles Lakers center Vlade Divac.

VASJ coach Babe Kwasniak said the adidas Eurocamp is a good opportunity for Bragg on several levels. It's Bragg's first trip outside the continental United States, and it's also a huge showcase type of event.

'He's playing a game, and it's allowing him a chance to see the world,' Kwasniak said. 'It's a great opportunity and it's so cool.

'This trip will give him a taste of reality, a look at what college is life is going to be like - life after VASJ.'

Michael Graves, a former coach at VASJ who is a confidant for Bragg, agreed with Kwasniak that the adidas Eurocamp is a 'big deal' - for everyone involved, primarily Bragg.

'This camp can be a stepping stone for him to catapult himself to the next level,' Graves said. 'He's the only one from Ohio to be selected. It's great for VASJ, the City of Cleveland and The News-Herald area to have a kid representing us in Italy.'

Bragg has been hard at work since the Vikings finished second in the Division III state tournament this past March. Bragg said he's grown to a shade under 6-foot-11 and is up to 222 pounds with the help of a personal trainer.

'He's done a heck of a job with his body,' Kwasniak said. 'He's gotten a lot thicker, put on a lot of muscle. He looks good.'

The body transformation is one facet Bragg wanted to improve upon. He said he also needs to work on his post-up moves and scoring off the dribble.

Bragg said he doesn't mind having holes in his game pointed out to him.

'It doesn't bother me,' he said. 'I like being coached. It helps me be a better player.'

Bragg admitted the whole recruiting circle is a whirlwind at times, especially when combined with his travels as part of the Ohio Basketball Club AAU program. When he returns from Italy, he and his OBC teammates will prep for another adidas tournament in early July, this one being in Las Vegas.

He said he will trim his list of colleges to nine or 10 in September before making his decision in the following weeks or months.

'It's all pretty exciting,' Bragg said. 'Sometimes it's a little overwhelming when people are calling day after day, but I've always got my friends (to get away with for a while). That's where my brothers are, at St. Joe's.'

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