Kansas junior Christian Braun will enter the NBA draft but will maintain his college eligibility, he told ESPN on Sunday.
"It is hard to follow a season where you win every championship that's in front of you, but I'm excited to explore the options in front of me and enjoy this process," Braun said. "I've worked my whole life to show the NBA who I am and what I'm about, so I will continue to put my head down and work to achieve my dream of playing in the NBA."
Braun, the No. 30 prospect in the ESPN 100, had a breakout junior season, being named second-team All-Big 12 after averaging 14.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 34 minutes for Kansas. The Jayhawks won both the Big 12 regular-season and tournament championships, before winning the NCAA title in New Orleans.
Braun played an essential role in helping Kansas overcome a 15-point halftime deficit against North Carolina in the title game, playing lockdown defense, grabbing 12 rebounds and scoring 10 second-half points. It was the Jayhawks' first NCAA championship since 2008.
"This year at Kansas couldn't have gone any better," Braun said. "Winning a national championship was our goal from day one," Braun said. "I showed the NBA the different ways that I impact winning, on both sides of the ball and my willingness to do whatever it takes to put my team in the best position. Whether it's knocking down open shots, scoring in transition, or defending the opposing team's best player, my primary focus is taking any challenge in front of me head-on to help our team."
Braun played up to four positions for Kansas this season, switching seamlessly on the perimeter, putting a body on big men in the post and doing quite a bit of facilitation in the half-court. He's an excellent rebounder and Kansas' best rim-protector, and he converted 39% of his 3-pointers, making him one of the more versatile wing players in this draft class.
Hailing from Burlington, Kansas, Braun wasn't viewed as a major prospect entering college, and was not considered a top-100-caliber recruit, scoring just 5.2 points per game as a freshman. He steadily improved his standing among NBA teams by adding strength, improving his quickness and explosiveness and becoming a more versatile defender and passer.
"The path I've taken is a reflection of the confidence I have in myself based on the work that I put in," Braun said. "At every stage of my career, my preparation has met the opportunity in front of me and I have been ready to take on a bigger role each year. Every year I have been able to showcase new elements of my skill set that I develop, and as a result, I have grown as a player. The work I put in comes to light on the biggest stages, and that's the reason I came to Kansas. I came here to take on the challenge of meeting the standards of excellence that Kansas basketball has set and compete for national championships. Nothing less."
The NBA draft combine will be held May 16-22 in Chicago, and the draft will be held June 23 in Brooklyn, New York.
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service utilized by NBA, NCAA and international teams.