Stevenson's Brunson makes his choice -- it's Villanova
The master of slick moves came up with a new one to announce his college choice.
Jalen Brunson penetrated a mob of friends and classmates, including football players wearing pads, faculty and staff, and reporters and cameras inside a cramped room in Stevenson's district building Wednesday. He took a seat at a table, joining his parents, Rick and Sandra, his smiling kid sister Erica, grandmother and Stevenson basketball coach Pat Ambrose. Brunson thanked them all, including his teammates, AAU family and even his middle-school coach.
With all ears in the room perked, the highly coveted point guard then began to tell everyone the news they all came to hear.
"At this time, I want to announce that I will be continuing my career as a student-athlete at ..."
Then in a wardrobe switch-a-roo that would have wowed Superman, Stevenson's superstar unzipped his black sweatshirt.
" ... Villanova University," Brunson said, revealing a white Villanova T-shirt, before donning a blue Villanova cap.
People clapped. They're used to doing that when Brunson has the stage. Pennsylvania, here he comes.
The 6-foot-1 senior, whose all-state junior campaign included a 57-point game and tourney-record 56 points against Whitney Young in the Class 4A state semifinals, announced Monday that he had narrowed his choices to Villanova and Illinois. Michigan State, Temple and Purdue were also in his top five.
"Some days I knew. Some days I didn't," Brunson said. "The past couple of days I've really been thinking about it, and then I woke up and had that gut feeling this morning. I knew (Villanova) is where I wanted to be."
"I told him (Tuesday) night, 'Make a decision. Live with it, and we're going to be happy,' " said Rick Brunson, the former Chicago Bull.
Illinois coach John Groce courted Brunson hard and was a frequent spectator at Stevenson games last season. Rick Brunson broke the news to Groce and his staff Wednesday while Jalen was in school.
"I think me and Coach Groce still have a healthy relationship right now," Jalen Brunson said. "We've been through a lot together. Sadly, I can choose only one school."
"This is about Jalen," Rick Brunson said. "It's not about Coach Groce. It's not about (Villanova coach) Jay Wright. It's about my son and the day he committed to go to a university. We just want to celebrate that. Coach Groce and Illinois did a great job. Tremendous respect for them. But at the end of the day, my son picked a school and a coach that he felt comfortable with. Nothing against anybody else."
Funny enough, Rick and Sandra Brunson both went to Temple.
"I knew that (Villanova) was my parents' rival school," Brunson said. "I didn't like (Villanova) growing up, at all."
Coach Jay Wright's Villanova Wildcats are the reigning Big East regular-season champs and have gone to the NCAA tournament nine of the last 10 years. Wright has coached his share of great guards, including Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry and current junior Ryan Arcidiacono.
"He compares me to pretty much all of his guards," said Brunson, who averaged 25 points and 5 assists per game last season. "They have that toughness in them."
Brunson has been Stevenson's starting point guard since his freshman year. He put together an all-state campaign as a sophomore in leading the Patriots to a runner-up finish at state, before he and his teammates settled for third place last March. His high school coach has no doubts Brunson will be a great college player.
"Have you seen him back down from anything? Struggle in big games?" Ambrose said with a laugh. "No and no."
A big burden has been lifted off the shoulders of a kid who can carry a team on his back.
Can't wait to see what more slick moves Brunson has in store for his senior season.
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