Jalen Brunson’s on the short list of most decorated college basketball players in history.
He’s also declared for the 2018 NBA Draft, closing one of the greatest careers the NCAA has ever seen after just three seasons.
Brunson arrived at Villanova as a 5-star recruit in 2015. He won a state title in Illinois his senior year, scoring 48 against Jayson Tatum led Chaminade Prep along the way. The year before, he scored 56 in the semis in a losing effort against Jahlil Okafor’s squad that would go on to take the title. He won two gold medals, first for the USA Under-18 and then for the USA Under-19, with Brunson named MVP of the latter on a team littered with guys already in the league.
Oh yeah, he was also Mr. Basketball Illinois in 2015 and the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in both his junior and senior seasons.
Brunson started alongside roommate and 2016 NCAA Tournament MOP Ryan Arcidiacono on the National Champion Villanova Wildcats.
Over three seasons at Villanova, Brunson won two national championships, two Big East regular season championships, and two Big East Tournaments.
He also won the Wooden and Naismith awards for the best player in the country his junior seasons.
Oh, and he’ll graduate with a degree in three years as well.
The son of Rick, a nine-year NBA journeyman, Brunson will enter the NBA ready as any prospect in recent memory. Despite the accolades and preparedness, the savvy point guard won’t hear his name called late in the first round, or sometime during the second.
The knocks against Brunson are his size, athleticism, and age. It’s a perfect scenario for a team that values leadership, intelligent play, and can utilize all the Brunson does on a basketball court. It’s cliche at this point, but a coach like Gregg Popovich would be a perfect landing spot for Brunson to take over for Tony Parker.
He’s like a lefty stylistic split of Andre Miller and Mark Jackson, albeit with a very reliable jumper from deep. Brunson is most effective in the post, as he proved he could score on anyone in the college ranks with his back to the basket. Admittedly, this will be more difficult at the next level, but Brunson is wholly capable of finding success in the post if help doesn’t arrive. That’s the Mark Jackson of his game. His old man deceptive style moving towards the basket is reminiscent of Andre Miller. Neither of those NBA greats were a threat from long range, which is where Brunson sets himself apart from these comparisons.
Brunson will have a long career in the NBA, even if he never cracks a starting lineup yet alone an All-Star game. One thing I will guarantee is that he wins an NBA title, because all he does is win no matter what.
In an era of one-and-dones with insane length and athleticism, Brunson’s incredible college career will go overlooked.
Brunson joins Christian Laettner, Bill Walton, and Lew Alcindor as the only players to win player of the year and two national championships.
That’s some seriously select company.
So NBA GM’s, feel free to overlook Brunson for a sexier prospect with more upside at your own peril.
He’ll just keep on winning with or without you.