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Stevenson junior Jalen Brunson has been named the 2013-14 Gatorade Illinois Boys Basketball Player of the Year, it was announced Friday morning.
Brunson is the first Gatorade Illinois Boys Basketball Player of the Year to be chosen from Stevenson High School.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, distinguishes Brunson as Illinois's best high school boys basketball player. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year award to be announced in March, Brunson joins an elite alumni association of past state boys basketball award winners, including Dwight Howard (2003-04, SW Atlanta Christian Academy, Ga.), Chauncey Billups (1993-94 & 1994-95, George Washington HS, Colo.), Jason Kidd (1991-92, St. Joseph Notre Dame HS, Calif.), Paul Pierce (1994-95, Inglewood HS, Calif.) and Chris Bosh (2001-02, Lincoln HS, Texas).
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Brunson guard has led the Patriots to a 31-1 record and a berth in the Class 4A state semifinals, where they will play Benet Academy Friday at 6:30 p.m.
The honorary captain of the Daily Herald's Lake County All-Area team, Brunson averaged 25.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.9 steals per game. He scored a school-record 56 points in a 95-93, double-overtime victory against Lake Forest on Feb. 21.
Brunson has maintained a weighted GPA of 3.30 in the classroom and represents one of the state's top academic candidates in meeting the Gatorade Award's broad criteria. He has volunteered locally as a youth basketball instructor and referee.
"Jalen plays the game the right way," said Ryan Webber, head coach of rival Warren. "This was my ninth year as a head coach, and I have not competed against a more fierce competitor. His character stands out each and every time I watch him play. I can only imagine what a dream it must be to coach a player that exemplifies complete athletic excellence and the character and grace of a champion the way Jalen does. He is great for his school, our conference, our area and the state of Illinois."
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Brunson joins recent Gatorade Illinois Boys Basketball Players of the Year Jabari Parker (2012-13 & 2011-12, Simeon), Chasson Randle (2010-11, Rock Island), Rayvonte Rice (2009-10, Champaign Centennial), Matt Vogrich (2008-09, Lake Forest, Michael Dunigan (2007-08, Farragut), and Derrick Rose (2006--07, Simeon) among the state's list of former award winners.