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Stylish footware suits Brunson's feats
 

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Stylish footware suits Brunson's feats
  • Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson hoists the North Suburban Conference trophy after the Patriots’ win over North Chicago. Brunson, who captains the Daily Herald’s all-area team for Lake County, are hoping for more postseason hardware.

    Purchase Photo | Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson hoists the North Suburban Conference trophy after the Patriots’ win over North Chicago. Brunson, who captains the Daily Herald’s all-area team for Lake County, are hoping for more postseason hardware. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 

There are nearly 40 pairs of basketball shoes in Jalen Brunson's room.

They fill the closet, and the ones that don't fit there are stowed neatly under his bed, many still in the original boxes.

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The collection includes mostly Nikes and Jordans, in just about every color of the rainbow.

"I think I have everything except pink shoes," Brunson said. "I should probably get some pink ones. I love shoes and it's something I like to switch up."

Brunson, Stevenson's highly sought-after junior guard who is sitting on at least 15 major Division I scholarship offers already and seems to be Coach Tom Izzo's No. 1 recruit at Michigan State, takes his pre-game shoe selection very seriously.

Much thought goes into which shoes are best for each particular game.

"When you look good, you play good," the 6-foot-2 Brunson said.

Clearly, it's been a season of fashion hits, and virtually no misses for Brunson, who has been selected to captain the 2014 Daily Herald's all-area boys basketball team for Lake County. He's put up big-time numbers in leading Stevenson to one of its best seasons in school history.

The Patriots, seeded No. 1 in the Lake Zurich sectional and scheduled to play Warren on Friday night in the McHenry regional championship game (7 p.m.), have been dominant in their quest to return downstate and win the state championship this time. They settled for the runners-up trophy last year and have been driven to surpass that ever since.

Behind nearly 25 points per game from Brunson, Stevenson has rolled to a 27-1 record and has been ranked among the top Class 4A teams in the state all season.

"We've played a pretty tough schedule this season," said Brunson, who has hit a team-leading 65 3-pointers and is also averaging 5.2 rebounds and a team-high 4.8 assists per game. "Everything we've done as a team this season has prepared us for this moment. It's gotten us ready for the big time."

Brunson knows all about the big time.

He's been under intense pressure all season, often with big-name coaches such as Izzo watching his every move. But Brunson, Stevenson's all-time leading scorer and 12th on Lake County's all-time list with 1,701 career points, has coolly and calmly put together career-night performances on multiple occasions.

Sporting his special "Black History Month" purple Kevin Durant shoes, Brunson was stylishly spectacular as he dropped a school-record 57 points on Lake Forest in late February. In a lopsided win over North Chicago in the North Suburban Conference championship game last week, Brunson's neon green and yellow Nike Hyper Revs lifted him in acrobatic fashion to 39 points. He made shots that left the sold-out crowd oohing and ahhing on a regular basis.

"When I'm playing a game like that, I really don't think about it too much. I'm just in the game," Brunson said. "In that 57-point game, my teammates kept feeding me and I didn't even realize what was going on until I looked up at the scoreboard and I kind of shocked myself a little bit.

"That was a big night, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing."

Then again, Brunson doesn't seem the type to rest on past laurels. If there's anyone who can out-do his once-in-a-lifetime performances, it's him.

Brunson inherited a never-satisfied work ethic from his dad Rick Brunson, a former NBA player who spent part of his 9-year career with the Chicago Bulls.

"I definitely get my mindset about working hard from my dad," Brunson said. "He might not have been the most talented or gifted athlete, but he just worked so hard. It was non-stop working.

"I remember from when I was about 5 years old to about age 11, I used to go everywhere with my dad and I would go to the gym with him during his offseason and just sit there and watch him work out. I remember him working so hard that he'd be dripping with sweat. He was completely drenched. For him to work so hard every single day to reach his goals, I think that had a huge impact on me."

Brunson, who began to get serious about basketball when he was 12 and would run miles and miles around his neighborhood to build his endurance, insists, to this day, on making 300 shots before he leaves the gym. And that's 300 made shots.

"Sometimes, it goes pretty fast, sometimes it goes slow," Brunson said. "But I would never (cheat and quit early). In the back of my mind, I'm always thinking that I don't want anyone else out there out-working me."

Brunson approaches his foot fashion the same way.

His favorite basketball shoes are the shoes that no one else has.

"I like to find those rare shoes," Brunson said. "If no one else has them, I want them. I don't like being normal. I like to be different."

Of course, Brunson already is in his own class, regardless of the shoes he's wearing.

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

• Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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