Jalen Brunson, the top point guard in the recruiting class of 2015, announced Wednesday afternoon his decision to play for the Villanova Wildcats. Brunson– from Chicago– held offers from the likes of Kansas, Illinois, UCONN, Villanova, Michigan, Temple, and Michigan State, but in the end, he chose the Wildcats over the Illini.
What it means for Villanova:
Villanova is dubbed “Guard U” for good reason, but Brunson is only the 4th five-star rated guard to commit in the last decade–and the first since 2007, when Jay Wright brought in Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes. Toronto Raptors’ star Kyle Lowry was the only other five star guard to come to the mainline.
Brunson is a prototypical Villanova guard, who boasts a complete and well rounded game. The backcourt for Villanova will have stiff competition next season, as Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Dylan Ennis, Phil Booth, Donte Divincenzo, and Brunson will all be competing for minutes. Coach Jay Wright may bring back his famous 4-guard lineup for stretches at a time. In an era where top players at their position often shirk competetion, Brunson’s decision to committ despite a heavy backcourt is somewhat of an anomaly. There is no guarantee that Brunson will start from day 1, but he will find a way get on the court.
Jalen Brunson the player:
The Stevenson High lead guard has a tricky handle and crafty body control, both of which he uses so effectively to exploit defenders in isolation or via the pick and roll. Brunson’s size and wingspan are average for the position, but he makes up for it with an on-court know-how beyond his years. His footwork on the perimeter is exquisite (especially for his age), as he employs a variety of stepbacks, jab steps, and pullups to shake his defender. He finishes well with both hands and possesses good court vision and passing ability. Brunson is the kind of point guard that will eventually take college basketball by storm due to his diverse and fundamental ability.
Where does Illinois go from here?:
To lose out on a homegrown player is tough, particularly when a team is in the race until the end. Currently, the Illini have two 4-star recruits in the class of 2015– forward D.J. Williams and shooting guard Aaron Jordan. However, with rising sophomore Kendrick Nunn as the only proven point guard on the roster next season, Coach John Groce would have loved to secure a commitment from Brunson. The Illini have officially offered four other point guards in the 2015 class, but after focusing so much on Brunson and facing stiff recruiting competition, there is no guarantee they will land another point guard.