INDIANAPOLIS – Sometimes a guy just has to wear Superman socks.
Or does he?
Well, when you're 16 years old and rate among the nation's top Class of 2015 players, as Ohio's Carlton Bragg is, wearing socks that include a red cape that flaps when you run can resonate like an Armani suit.
So there was Bragg, a 6-9, 208-pound forward with enough major college offers to stuff a suitcase, hustling all over last week's adidas Invitational with socks few outside of their teenage years would dare wear.
For the record, Bragg and an Ohio Basketball Club teammate wore them after a spur-of-the-moment purchase at Wal-mart.
“You like them?” he asked a group of cynical journalists, who looked like they'd rather wear dresses than Superman socks.
“It's different,” Bragg added with a smile.
Fashion sense doesn't overshadow basketball talent, which Bragg has. He is rated the No. 12 overall Class of 2015 player by Rivals.com, a national Internet recruiting service, and the No. 4 power forward. He has the power to dominate the paint and the shooting range to hurt you deep.
“He's got excellent skills,” Ohio Basketball Club coach Anthony Stacey said. “I'm impressed with his work ethic. His jump shot is really, really good. He's still hungry. He's a very nice kid. He's a pleasure to coach.
“The kid has had some success, but he isn't satisfied with that. He's been working a ton. He's had a great summer so far. You can see why he's in the top 15 in the nation. He's pretty good.”
Like many elite recruits, Bragg has the NBA dream and isn't shy about mentioning it.
That's why the success of Indiana's Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo, who ended their college careers early to enter the NBA draft, then got picked in the top four, is so enticing.
“I want to be another NBA prospect,” he said. “Yes, I watched the draft. I saw what Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo did. It was surprising. It showed hard work pays off. I want to have that same feeling.”
Bragg is a realist. He's from Ohio, the same state that produced LeBron James, but no where near that early ability. He's a work in progress and he knows it.
“I'm far from it,” he said about being NBA ready, “but I feel like I'm getting closer every day.”
While Bragg is listed as a power forward, he has a different vision for his future.
“I want to be a 3 (small forward), like a Kevin Durant style of player,” he said, “where I can dribble the ball, have quickness and agility.
“I need to work on everything – mostly my ballhandling and getting stronger, how to take people off the dribble, and my defense.”
That's exactly what Indiana coach Tom Crean and his staff want to hear. They spent plenty of adidas Invitational time watching Bragg play. Bragg said he likes what the Hoosier program can offer.
“They like my game. They tell me to keep me working hard. They want me to get down in the fall to visit.”
Bragg said he plans to do that.
IU's recruiting competition is fierce. Ohio State, Illinois, West Virginia, DePaul and Texas are the biggest rivals.
Last month Bragg visited Ohio State and Illinois. The Illini coaches told him he was a 'missing piece” in their national title hunt. Buckeye coaches and players pushed the program's “family” approach. Bragg attends Cleveland St. Joseph's High School, the same school that produced former Buckeye standout David Lighty.
As for Bragg's potential, Stacey said the ceiling is very high.
“He has to get a little stronger. He's thin. He's got to learn to get off the dribble a little more. Every player in the country can improve on defense. And once he gets a little more back to the basket … the kid is really good. You see some of the moves he makes. You don't realize he's almost 6-10 and doing it. He's going to continuously get better.”
Crean constantly emphasizes the importance of competitiveness in his players. Stacey said Bragg has plenty of that.
“He's an unbelievable competitor. He fouled out (of Ohio Basketball Club's first adidas Invitational game) and he was the loudest guy on the bench. That tells you something right there. He has a little bit of that Kevin Garnett in him as far as competing and wanting to win.
“He lifts our team's energy level. He's a leader. He demands that they play hard. That's a true sign of a leader and that's a sign college coaches really like.”