This haul of recruits could make YSU Bragg

YOUNGSTOWN — Bear with me as I play connect the dots. This is something of a recruiting puzzle that coach Jerrod Calhoun could fit together. Not to start the next Youngstown State men’s basketball season, but beginning with the 2018-19 campaign.

The YSU coach and assistant coach Paul Molinari were in North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana and Chicago the past few days looking at potential recruits. Five scholarships remain for the 2017-18 season, and some might be filled by graduate transfers.

But that’s not the theme of this column.

That 2018-19 season could be a monumental season at Beeghly Center. Why? One name — Carlton Bragg.

The 6-foot-10, 240-pounder recently left Kansas. He averaged 5.2 points and 4.1 rebounds — averaging 13.8 minutes a game last season. But it was a season to forget for Bragg, who was suspended twice.

Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com reported, “The first discipline for Bragg came under precautionary measures, as he was erroneously charged with a misdemeanor of battery. Video evidence later revealed Bragg to be victimized. Bragg’s second suspension came in late January/early February, after police found drug paraphernalia in his dorm room amid a separate investigation not related to Bragg.”

The Kansas City Star’s Gary Bedore talked to former Villa Angela-St. Joseph assistant coach Michael Graves after Bragg’s release.

“He’s going to transfer and get that fresh start,” Graves told Bedore.

That could mean Bragg going back to his hometown of Cleveland.

Neither Calhoun, nor anyone on his staff, can comment on recruits, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be speculation.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Bragg could follow conventional wisdom and head to a program like Xavier, Michigan or West Virginia. He’d sit out one season due to NCAA transfer rules, play during the 2018-19 season and, most likely 2019-20, before heading to the NBA. Or, he enters the NBA Draft right now.

This is like those Choose Your Own Adventure books I used to read in my childhood. I’ll skip the first two endings and go with a possible third. Bragg heads to YSU, sits out one season and plays for the Penguins, starting in the 2018-19 season.

Jim Tressel, current YSU president, was known for mentoring many so-called troubled players during his tenure as football coach with the Penguins and at Ohio State. People gravitate toward this former mentor like the pied piper, especially in Youngstown.

Tressel has an uncanny knack of relating to almost anyone, from any walk of life — making those who come in contact with him feel like they’ve known the YSU President as they would a life-long friend.

Maybe he can make Bragg feel that way, somehow convince him Youngstown could be his home — a place he could get that fresh start.

Then, there’s the VASJ connection.

Calhoun is a former Vikings player from the mid-1990s. He’s good friends with VASJ boys basketball coach Babe Kwasniak.

You think Kwasniak has an influence on Bragg, a former Vikings player?

Why not encourage the five-star recruit who is looking for a change of scenery to head to a safe haven? That place could be Youngstown, a place where he would be looked after by a fellow VASJ graduate and inviting teammates. A place where the school’s president would provide him mentorship.

It’s not like this scenario hasn’t happened before under Calhoun’s watch.

Walsh University won the 2005 NAIA Division II national championship with Calhoun as an assistant coach. Following Calhoun from Cincinnati, where the VASJ graduate was the director of basketball operations for the Bearcats, was Robert Whaley — the 2005 NAIA Division II Player of the Year. The 6-10 Whaley was drafted by the Utah Jazz for the 2005-06 season — a rarity for a player from that level.

Two Fairmont State players are good examples how Calhoun, the former Falcons coach, helped them succeed.

Nick Harney, a former Cleveland Benedictine player who was at Akron, played for the Falcons. Now he’s playing professionally in Italy.

This year’s Falcons team, which made the NCAA Division II national championship game, was led by first-team All-American Matt Bingaya ‚ a former Southern Mississippi player. The 6-4 Delaware, Ohio, native should be playing professionally as well.

If Bragg comes to YSU, that means another player on the Penguins’ radar could be on his way — Parma Heights Holy Name junior Dwayne Cohill, a 6-4, 175-pound shooting guard. YSU offered a scholarship to Cohill, a four-star recruit, according to verbalcommits.com. Virginia Tech, Butler, Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt, Tulsa, DePaul, Stony Brook, UNLV, Cleveland State, Ohio State, Northwestern, Penn State, Xavier, West Virginia, Duquesne and Toledo also offered Cohill, who will be a senior at Holy Name next season.

Incidentally, the Green Wave were part of the North Coast League, in the same league as VASJ until a couple of years ago. It’s almost like playing the six degrees of Kevin Bacon.

The Penguins need a shooting guard starting in 2018-19 after Cameron Morse, the odds-on favorite to win the 2017-18 Horizon League Player of the Year, graduates.

Another possibility for YSU is former Ohio State player, David Bell, who according to a tweet from his high school coach, Sonny Johnson, left the program. The former 6-10, 225-pound sophomore from Garfield Heights left the Buckeyes after averaging 1.3 points and 1.9 rebounds in 15 games off the bench.

Bell comes from the same Garfield Heights program that produced 6-4 YSU sophomore-to-be Braun Hartfield. Johnson tweeted out more than a week ago that one of his players, Brison Waller, a 6-9 sophomore, was offered a scholarship by YSU. Waller will be a junior next season.

Calhoun has been busy offering scholarships, according to verbalcommits.com. He’s offered two point guards graduating high school in 2018 — 6-foot Sincere Carry (Solon) and 6-2 Duane Washington Jr. (Grand Rapids Christian in Michigan). Center Brandon Stone, 6-10, 185, from Southmoreland High School in Alverton, Pa. (45 minutes southeast of Pittsburgh), was offered a scholarship by YSU as well.

Now, if YSU signs Bell and/or Bragg, they each have two years of eligibility available.

You might think I’ve lost my ever-loving mind thinking Bragg has any chance to wear a Penguins uniform.

Then again, a former Nebraska coach, who didn’t leave as Cornhuskers coach on his own accord, found solace in coming home.

In December 2014, YSU named Cardinal Mooney graduate Bo Pelini its football coach.

Who would’ve imagined that scenario?

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