Illinois Getting to the Point

While recruiting in the 2014 class is heating up, Illinois coaches aren't downplaying the importance of hitting 2015 hard from the start. Part of that means having top targets on campus, including a priority in-state point.

Jalen Brunson showed throughout the season that he had some serious potential to be a great guard and cement a spot near the top of the rankings, but as the state championships came around, he took it to a whole new level and really created a lot of buzz.

Now with the spring AAU season in the books, Brunson took a quick look back and recognized that he grew a lot over the past season.

"I really improved my ability to lead," he said, "and I became a better defender."

And that leadership was evident throughout the spring as he piloted the offense for both state runner-up Stevenson High School as well as a talented Mac Irvin Fire team.

Brunson, who played up a year with the 17U team, benefitted from the more intense competition that faced him all throughout the spring AAU gauntlet.

"Yeah, it challenged me," he said, "but it also showed me that there's a lot more work to be done. Right now I'm focused on improving my defense and quickness"

Brunson has heard from a long list of schools from all over the country and currently holds several offers, one of which is from the in-state Illini.

With such a talented point guard essentially in their back yard, Illinois is already turning up the heat on Brunson's recruitment. And on Sunday, Brunson headed downstate to spend some time in Champaign and see what the Illinois program was all about.

"I had a great time there," he said. "It was great hospitality by Coach Groce and his staff."

Brunson is familiar with the Illinois program and knows that it's a point guard's system. That was emphasized to him on the visit.

He said, "I like how they put trust in the point guard and how that lets them operate and make plays. The way I make decisions and come off of ball screens is exactly what they are looking for"

But beyond basketball, Brunson was surprised by the receptiveness and backing he would get from the Illinois staff.

"I really noticed the support they would have for me if I attended there," he said. "That, and I was surprised to find out how much time Coach Groce has put into recruiting me."

And speaking of putting in time, Brunson was on his way to a workout when we wrapped up. Guess he's getting a head start on another state title run.

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