For everything, Stevenson's Brunson has had an answer
It's been a productive four years for senior Jalen Brunson.
The Stevenson point guard has gone from a promising starter as a freshman to an all-American who is considered one of the best high school basketball players in the country.
Brunson, who signed with nationally ranked Villanova, has already led Stevenson to two appearances in the IHSA state finals and is hoping to make a run at a third. He captained the Daily Herald's boys basketball all-area team for Lake County last season and is being honored with that distinction again this year.
Of course, almost every possible story has already been written on Brunson, who's averaging 22.8 points, 5.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds this season while knocking down 64 3-pointers. So, this is a more casual and fun look at what makes Brunson tick, on and off the court.
Patricia Babcock McGraw: What was your biggest fear about playing varsity as a freshman?
Jalen Brunson: "I was afraid to make a mistake. And just being able to fit in. It's a little intimidating playing with guys who are three or four years older than you. But I think once they saw how hard I worked, that helped."
PBM: What's different about you as a player now, compared to your freshman year?
JB: "Whenever I step on the court now, all I'm thinking about is winning the game. Freshman year, I was kind of star-struck, like 'Wow, we're playing against this really good team, or this really good player.'"
PBM: What's your flashiest move?
JB: "Probably the no-look pass. When I see something, I don't want to stare down my teammate. I'll look away so the defense can't react as fast. We actually practice that all the time. I tried some of those as a freshman, but they didn't work as well as they do now."
PBM: What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
JB: "My mind is my biggest strength. I am able to block things out to help my team win. I might not be the most athletic, but I can definitely out-think a lot of people. I feel like I think a couple steps ahead when I'm playing basketball. Sometimes I can't see the passes I'm making, like a wrap-around, but I know that's where it should be because we're supposed to have a player there. Defense has been a weakness, but I've worked so hard on that. When I was younger, I wasn't as strong or quick as the older guys. I'm getting better. I try to use my mind on defense. I watch a lot of film to get tendencies. Now, I try to guard the best player on the other team."
PBM: What's been the best game of your career thus far?
JB: "The Lake Forest game last year was pretty good. It was a great win for us in a hostile environment and I scored (a school-record) 57 points."
PBM: What's the most beneficial drill you do regularly on your own?
JB: "There's this drill my dad and I do. It's called 100 3's. I've got to make 100 three-pointers and he'll time me. I've got to make it from five or six different spots and he'll tell me how I've got to make it, like spotting up, running to a spot, pump-faking before the shot. It usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes. But sometimes, it could take 30 minutes if I'm not hitting."
PBM: What has been most beneficial to your physical development: lifting, jumping or agility work?
JB: "A little bit of everything. But the lifting has been really big. I started lifting going into freshman year and the lifting I've done over the years has definitely made it easier to play good defense and finish with contact. Squatting helps a lot. It helps you be a better athlete. I've put on (about 30 pounds) since my freshman year. My freshman year, I was about 5-foot-10, 160 pounds. Now, I'm 6-foot-2, 190 pounds."
PBM: You've been known to be a little bit of a shoe horse, particularly when it comes to basketball shoes. You had a closet full the last time we talked about foot fashion, and you like to wear different shoes depending on the game. What has been your favorite shoe this season?
JB: "The 'Kobe 9 Elite 'Christmas.' It's a red shoe that I wore twice during Christmas and I liked that because I've never worn red shoes before."
PBM: How many different pairs of shoes have you worn this season?
JB: "Probably 12 to 13. I don't get as many new ones as I used to. I'm still the same size (14) as I was freshman year."
PBM: What is your ritual before a game?
JB: "I listen to music. That's a must-do. I listen to Jay Z and Drake. I have that on a play list on shuffle. I also will usually eat a sub sandwich or Noodles and Company."
PBM: What player do you like to emulate?
JB: "I like to take different pieces from different players. I like Chris Paul and his mind and the way he passes. I also like Steph Curry. He's a great shooter."
PBM: What do you like watching better, the NBA or college basketball?
JB: "I like the NBA at the end of the season and in the playoffs. But I think I'd rather watch college. That's where I'm going to be playing soon."
PBM: Do you dream about playing in the NBA?
JB: "All the time. That's my long-term goal, something I've wanted to do since I was little."
PBM: What's the single biggest reason you chose Villanova?
JB: "There are a lot of point guards from Villanova who are playing in the NBA. I think (head coach Jay Wright) does a really good job of developing players. He knows how to make players better, and he has a system that really suits me."
PBM: Do you think you have a good chance of playing at Villanova right away?
JB: "I believe I can. Nothing's guaranteed. It's something I will have to work for. But I'm used to that. I worked to play as a freshman (at Stevenson) and I worked to play for USA basketball (last summer)."
PBM: What do you think you'll do when you're done playing basketball?
JB: "Something that has to do with sports. Maybe work for ESPN. I can't be without sports. I've got to have it in my life."
PBM: Do you have a hidden talent?
JB: "I can play soccer. I played when I was younger and if I had to play a second sport now, it would be that. But I haven't played since sixth grade."
PBM: Tell us something about you that no one knows?
JB: "I watch 'Scandal.' If I'm not watching ESPN, I'm watching that. My Mom introduced me to it and I love it. I'm sure most people wouldn't think I'd watch a show like that but there's always something happening. It moves fast. I like that."
Brunson is moving fast, too. Soon, right out of high school. Catch him before he's gone. He and the rest of the Patriots will be playing in the regional championship at 7 p.m. Friday night at Stevenson.
Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw