Jalen Brunson already looks like a player that's in mid-late season form. He picked up right where he left off and is commanding the floor like he usually does.
What's to Like:
In a semifinal matchup against St. Joe's and Glynn Watson, Brunson exploded for 32 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists on 10-19 shooting. He's crafty with the ball in his hands and protects the ball extremely well. He was often able to split defenders and had no issue getting to the hoop via the dribble drive.
Brunson isn't a monster athlete, but he's strong and his first move is quick and decisive. He used smooth crossover dribbles to get his defender moving one way then would cross back and drive down the lane.
Most of his buckets came around the hoop, but he still showed the ability to hit from mid-range. It wasn't Brunson's best night from behind the arc at 2-8 but he bounced back nicely in the championship game.
Brunson did a lot of damage from the free throw line. An 80% shooter from the free throw line on the season, Brunson shot 10-11 from the line. When he drives to the hoop, he doesn't shy away from contact.
In the semis he was able to draw the fouls when he attacked. Against Morgan Park in the finals, he took a lot of contact but didn't get to the line quite as much. Still, the mindset is right.
Improvements from when we last saw him:
Brunson said it himself when I talked to him after the game. He's been working on his defense a lot in the offseason and it's really showing. Even from AAU play this summer, he's raised his defensive skill level and intensity. He knows what position he needs to be in and uses that to his advantage in hedging off ball screens.
Rather than watch the ball, Brunson is more focused on the body of the offensive player, which enables him to use quick hands to poke the ball away and initiate the fast break the other direction. Against St. Joe's, Brunson tallied 4 steals.
There's a reason many consider Brunson not only the best point guard in the state of Illinois, but also the nation's top point guard in 2015. He's the epitome of what a stereotypical point guard is.
He's the maestro of the offense, he can both distribute and score, and he's the guy you want with the ball in his hands in critical situations. And he has Stevenson in good position to get back to Peoria.