And in Jalen Brunson's case, not only does he understand the game, he brings abundant talent to the court as well. Rick Brunson starred for Temple in the 1990s and went on to a professional career in the NBA and overseas, from there moving into the coaching ranks. He has spent time in both the NBA and college, and clearly his basketball knowledge has spread down to his son.
Jalen is a rare commodity in the Class of 2015: a blue-chip point guard. The nation's junior floor generals have not generated much of an impression relative to senior point guards or juniors at other positions, and Brunson is one of the few who has demonstrated that he can compete against top-notch competition.
The southpaw emerged late in his freshman year and continued from there. As a rising junior in the 2013 spring, he proved at the NY2LA Swish 'N Dish that he understands how to feed a big man such as Jahlil Okafor while contributing his own scoring as well. Further, he proved he could succeed playing up in the 17-under division for the Mac Irvin Fire.
That spring, he had amassed offers from Purdue, Illinois, DePaul, SMU and Xavier. He had all the bearings of a regional high-major prospect, and he would expand his list of suitors in the summer to become more national. He attended two prestigious camps matched primarily against his elders: NBAPA Top 100 Camp and LeBron James Skills Academy. Michigan State, Michigan, Connecticut, Virginia (where his father previously served as director of basketball operations) and various others stepped forward with offers.
So his recruitment is set to be intense over the coming months. Brunson brings an impeccably balanced game with superb instincts and alertness. He makes the right play as much because he knows what the right play is and how to quickly identify it, as opposed to mere talent. Brunson is a thinking man's point guard, and it helps that he boasts an effective jump shot as well.
Brunson comfortably launches shots from three-point range and should be an immediate factor from the perimeter for whichever program he chooses. He also is a tight ballhandler who utilizes effective dribble moves to free himself for shots on the move, and of course he's a heady passer who recognizes which of his teammates has the most favorable matchup.
All those qualities help offset his greatest limitation: average quickness. Brunson has and will continue to face persistent questions about his ability to drive against superior athletes or defend them on the other end of the court. At only 6-0, he doesn't have the size to pass over the top or the body type to be a punishing driver. Perhaps those fears will become more severe as he eyeballs a professional future, rather than college, but nevertheless they do exist.
Still, Brunson obviously has assuaged any anxieties college coaches might have experienced. Not only is he accomplished on the prep level, he has succeeded against the best available competition — and that counts for a lot.
We'll watch him closely this spring and summer to assess the finer points of his game, but already he stands out as one of the junior class' most esteemed floor generals.