Jalen Brunson has come a long way from being the bright spot in a losing effort against Chicago basketball powerhouse “Simeon Career Academy”. This team was led by current Milwaukee Buck’s forward, Jabari Parker, in the 2013 Class 4A state championship game in Peoria, Illinois. He lead Stevenson High School to their first state championship title in school history, in just a matter of two years.
Brunson is a two time “Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year” recipient (2014, 2015). He was also chosen as a McDonald’s All-American and has won 100 games during his high school career, which only 13 other players have done in Chicago high school basketball history. He won the “2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship” with USA Basketball and participated in the Jordan Brand Classic game, at the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn New York.
Brunson, the son of former NBA player and Temple alum, Rick Brunson, is not your modern day point guard. The left handed guard, who is ranked #17 in the ESPN 100 (#2 Point Guard) recruiting database, is only 6’2 and weighs about 180 pounds.
His ability to make split second decisions, while maintaining composure, allows him to make highlight passes anytime down the court. His basketball IQ, allows him to read the game and in turn, helps to orchestrate his team. The attention to detail he shows, while dribbling the ball, allows him to break down defenders so that he can get to the basket and score. His crafty ability to drive gives him the opportunity to get to the line. He uses this to his advantage, by converting free throws and shooting 83 percent from the foul line.
The speed at which he plays the game is incredible, but his gift of scoring the basketball may be even better. One of his many strengths on the hardwood is his consistency shooting three pointers. This helped to average 21.1 points throughout his four years at Stevenson High School. His breakout year would come during twelfth grade, when he averaged 23.3 points, 5.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.6 steals.
Brunson set the IHSA (Illinois High School Association) single game scoring record, scoring 56 points in a losing effort, against the eventual state champions, Whitney Young high school, led by Duke center and 2015 NCAA national champion winner, Jahlil Okafor.
The 2015 Class 4A state championship game against “Normal Community High School” in Peoria, was not only the last time Brunson would suit up for the Stevenson Patriots but, one of his most memorable games. He scored 30 points (9-of-15 FGs, 3-of-5 3-point FGs, 9-of-9 FTs) to help his team win. Brunson is not scared of the limelight, making him a perfect fit for the Wildcats.
Brunson may be rated the #2 point guard, according to ESPN’s recruiting database, but the Nova commit still has room for improvement. His inability to start off games fast may hinder his performance at the next level, especially, if he has to come off the bench next season. This would be due to rising senior point guard Ryan Arcidiacono and last year’s freshman standout point guard, Phil Booth. When the Illinois native does not have the ball in hands, he can sometimes be ineffective and can be caught watching the game, instead of moving to get open. His go-to three point shot can overshadow his strength of driving to the basket at times, when put under heavy defensive pressure. He needs to be patient when the double team hits. Lastly, Brunson is only 180 pounds. Adding at least 10 more will prove to be significantly more important as he enters a team that is aiming at a championship trophy. His size could happen to be a problem when trying to finish around the rim. Bigger defenders could body him up, altering his shot. Accumulating more strength and muscle will only prove to be beneficial in the long run.
Good Fit or Bad Fit?
The Villanova five-star commit, had a specific criteria when deciding what college he wanted to attend. His parents (Rick and Sandra), also played a key role, in his decision. The Brunson family did not just want to be apart of a great basketball program, they wanted Jalen to succeed off the court as well, and with Villanova’s strong academic background, this is sure to be a perfect fit, in addition to a favorable campus location. One of the main factors that persuaded him to chose Villanova over the likes of Kansas, UConn and Illinois was due to coach Jay Wright. Wright has been known to develop guards and run a guard oriented program. His organization has often been referred to as “Guard U”. Brunson has come a long way over these past two years, but he’s not finished developing. There’s no telling where he’ll be after four years under the watchful eye of coach Wright. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune
-(1) Villanova defeats (3) Michigan in the National Championship