Wisconsin freshman point guard Diamond Bragg adjusting to college game
Diamond Bragg admits she’s felt a bit out of place as she’s tried to get up to speed as a point guard with the University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team.
But she’s dealt with more trying circumstances.
Like when she was 6-years-old and her mom would dress her and her younger sister Passion up as clowns for various charity events.
“I hated it,” Bragg said. “I would cry my eyes out before and say I don’t want to do this. But she would make me go there and blow up balloons for kids and things like that.
“I wasn’t a scary-type clown. It was supposed to be funny and I was supposed to be cute. I had the huge plastic clown shoes, the nose, the face painted. I wasn’t a fan of it personally, but my name was Champ, Champ the Clown. I had a bunch of business cards and everything. It was an experience, but I got through that.”
Similarly, Bragg is showing signs of working through some of the hazards of adapting to the demands of her role with the Badgers (8-3) as they head into their final non-conference game Friday night against Evansville (2-8) at the Kohl Center.
Bragg, a 5-foot-9 freshman from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, is coming off her best game in her brief college career, with four points, seven rebounds, three assists and no turnovers in a season-high 19 minutes last week against Chicago State.
It was a welcome sign of progress in what has been a trying process for Bragg.
“It’s been an adjustment for me, especially as a point guard,” she said. “My job is to know the ins and outs of everything that’s going on out on the floor.
“That’s taken a little longer than I thought it would but as I’m starting to learn and grow on the court, I’m becoming more confident with that. I think that was reflected a little bit last game and I’m hoping to keep showing that and grow as a player.”
Coach Jonathan Tsipis has been down this road before, having broken in a freshman point guard in each of the past two seasons — Kendra Van Leeuwen in 2016-17 and Niya Beverley last season.
“I think the hardest position on the floor to come in and grasp everything as a freshman is the point guard spot,” Tsipis said. “I think Diamond is a really good athlete, a really strong kid. But I think understanding how fast decisions have to be made is a big adjustment.
“At times in high school and AAU you can use your athleticism and your strength to overwhelm people. That’s not going to happen for freshmen coming in. I think the great part about Diamond is that she’s such a willing learner.”
Bragg knew there would be no shortage of things to learn as she transitioned from high school and AAU ball to the college level. But she may have underestimated just how much there was.
“It just takes a little time to adapt to how we run things around here,” said Bragg, who was ranked No. 98 by Blue Star Report after averaging 22.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists as a senior for Camp Hill. “I definitely had a lot more freedom in high school, where I had the ability to use what I saw and just run with that. Here there’s a lot more structure to it, as you’d expect.
“I’m just trying to understand that exactly and be that reflection of coach Tsip out on the floor. It’s different from how I originally perceived it and he sees things differently than I do. So I’m just trying to incorporate what he’s teaching while applying my own game to it just to become the best player that I can be.”
Tsipis has a high level of confidence that Bragg will be able to do just that. He sees in her a player who can defend top perimeter players, push the tempo on offense and one who has the strength to get to the basket. He also expects her shooting to improve, which has been a focus of Bragg as she works with assistant coach Craig Carter on her shot.
“Because of her intangibles and the work she’ll put in, I have faith in her,” Tsipis said.
Bragg has every intention of making sure that faith is deserved.
“It’s been a lot of adversity and that’s something that’s new for me,” Bragg said. “Challenges can be hard and this is my first true test of who I really am, so I think in the end it’s going to say a lot more about myself.”