Christian Braun’s summer finale unfolded perfectly.
In a 25-point shellacking of Team WhyNot, the wing piled up 31 points and didn’t miss a shot from the floor, capping a July breakout that many inside the MoKan Elite program thought was overdue.
When he boarded a flight home from Las Vegas, the Overland Park, Kan., native could be contented. After entering the month holding just a quartet of offers, only one from a high-major, the number of suitors looking to the 6-foot-6, 180-pound prospect nearly quadrupled. Ten power conference programs extend offers. All the while, Missouri fans kept wondering when the Tigers would join the fray.
On Aug. 3, the wait ended when Cuonzo Martin rang.
Yet the ending could have been easily marred. The potential culprit: A shot kicking off the rim.
“If he had scored 31 points and took an ill-advised shot late and missed, it would bother him in that moment and beyond it,” MoKan Elite coach Chris Neff told Rock M Nation last week. “He just wants to do it right. That’s why it’s so it easy to run things for him and with him, because it’s going to get done and going to get done well.”
Since Braun broke loose in bracket play at Peach Jam, recruiting writers framed his ascent as a surprise — which isn’t entirely inaccurate. Until late May, the Blue Valley Northwest product had been a steady cog on a MoKan roster whose power derived from a frontcourt featuring combo forward Malik Hall, a fellow Mizzou target, and post N’Faly Dante, a top-10 talent in the Class of 2020.
Christian Braun | EYBL Statistics
|Peach Jam (Pool)||11.00||5.20||2.20||0.60||40.81||29.16||88.88||47.96||51.93|
|Peach Jam (Bracket)||15.00||7.50||3.00||0.50||47.62||40.00||85.71||57.14||62.29|
During a stop by the Nike EYBL in Indianapolis, anyone watching MoKan could tell Neff’s group leaned heavily on Hall. And as spring wore on, MoKan increasingly needed a player on the perimeter — Braun, Isiaih Mosley or Deandre Sorrells — to ease the burden.
It wasn’t a situation Neff envisioned, either. Inside, the talented but enigmatic Roman Wilson — who plays for Park Hill but reclassified to the 2020 class to get his academic affairs cleaned up — only suited up eight times for MoKan. Grant Sherfield, a top-100 prospect and UCLA commit out of Sunrise Christian Academy, was also only available for eight tilts this spring.
“You wind up not getting to play with them much, and you have huge plans for them to be a part of this,” Neff said. “Of course there was a need, and he (Braun) was more than willing to step in.”
Willing, yes. Able? That was another matter.
In the five weeks of practice ahead of the grassroots season, Braun dislocated the index finger on his shooting hand, throwing his shooting stroke out of whack. While Braun became more assertive off the dribble in July, his jump shot is the platform upon which the rest of his game is constructed.
“It affected him,” Neff said. “It affected us a lot, but once it got to where it was better, he felt secure enough to do what he does. And what he does has made this all come to fruition.”
Quickly calculating Braun’s shooting percentages shows a line of demarcation. In his first dozen EYBL games, he only connected on 28.6 percent of 3-point attempts. Over the last 11, he posted a 38-percent clip from long distance, opening up other facets of his skill set.
“Christian can space the floor, get downhill and make plays for himself. He’s just far better as a kid that we get shots for and where reads occur,” Neff said. “He gets a lot of screens, sets a lot of screens and does a ton of cutting – just things that will lead to him getting shots. I think he’s special in that regard.”
When you turn on film from July, Braun’s clearly more willing to put the ball on the floor, exploiting a defender trailing him after using a screen to spring free. While Braun doesn’t look explosive, he’s smooth and able to absorb contact getting to the rim. He’s also filled out more through the shoulders and upper arms — adding strength that comes with that newly gained mass.
“It’s hard when you’re not seeing it and living it to wonder how he blew up,” Neff said. “But he just stepped into himself. He became his potential, and there’s much more for him.”
Braun’s steadily moved up the MoKan ranks since joining the program in middle school, and Blue Valley Northwest is one of the better prep squads in the Kansas City metro area. Even if Braun’s stature and build didn’t mature in his early teens, Neff said the wing made himself indispensable. As his shooting stroke evolved, Braun earned minutes by scrapping for loose balls, absorbing charges and pounding the defensive glass.
“It was clear when he was in the eighth grade that he just had a passion for winning,” Neff said. “It did take him time to grow into his frame and acquire that strength necessary to be on the level he is, and get off shots – and we were confident he would – you knew that he would just bang them in. He’s just too good at it.”
Even if you could reasonably project what Braun would become, it became rote for recruiting analysts and college staffs to give Braun short shrift when he was part of rosters that featured well-known commodities.
“He can be thought of as just one of the dudes and not every really considered a dude,” Neff added.
State of Play | Missouri’s Remaining 2019 Targets by Position
|Point Guard||Combo Guard||Wing||Combo Forward||Post|
|Point Guard||Combo Guard||Wing||Combo Forward||Post|
|Rocket Watts||Mario McKinney Jr.||Isiaih Mosley||E.J. Liddell||Balsa Koprivica|
|Yuri Collins||Harlond Beverly||Antavion Collum||Tray Jackson|
|Jalen Hil||Khalid Thomas|
To start with, Braun has grown two inches since the spring began, and it’s not unreasonable to think his growth plates haven’t set. Combo Parker Braun, Christian’s older brother and a freshman preferred walk-on at Missouri, is closing in on 6-foot-10. Late growth spurts also tend to run in the Braun family, Neff said.
Projecting how Braun might fit into a college rotation requires envisioning him as a longer wing with a build that can still be sculpted by a rigorous conditioning program. As positionless lineups have become chic, bigger wings and proven perimeter shooting have emerged as vital commodities. On top of that, the construction of MoKan’s roster required Braun to switch easily and guard four positions, while learning to play three wing spots on the offensive end.
“Christian is a Swiss Army Knife,” Neff said. “That’s what makes him the most recruitable kid we’ve got right now.”
Missouri’s recruiting board at wing is also fluid.
The Tigers reportedly hosted Jalen Hill on an unofficial visit last week, while Antavion Collum has said it’s likely he’ll use one of his official visits on a trip to Columbia. Last week, a name fell off the board after Donovan Williams cut MU from his list of suitors.
Meanwhile, the recent rapprochement between Mizzou and Isiaih Mosley, who has close ties with the Porter family, hasn’t picked up additional momentum. The Rock Bridge product’s stock has remained a tad static, even if he did add an offer from Mississippi State. Two weeks ago, a source told Rock M Nation it’s possible Mosley lets his senior season play out, combining with Dajuan Harris and Jamonta Black in a push for a state title and renewed recruiting buzz.
“He will probably wait,” the source said. “Unless Mizzou comes in hard.”
Last week, though, Harris joined Black in committing to Missouri State, an addition that could help coach Dana Ford as he doggedly tries to bring Mosley aboard.
As for Braun, divining where he fits into the mix remains opaque, but Neff is adamant that the program who lands him will be getting a valuable long-term asset.
“There’s more there for him,” he said. “A lot more.”