Recruiting on Back Burner for Brunson

Jalen Brunson is one of the most highly-recruited point guards in the nation in the junior class, but right now, he only has one thing on his mind. And that is getting back down state and bringing home a state championship.

Last year after coming within one game of a state championship, Stevenson junior point guard Jalen Brunson was visibly disappointed. But it wasn't long before Brunson and his team re-focused, and the Patriots have been on a tear to start the season hot.

Much of last year's team returned, and that experience from last year is already paying dividends.

"It's helping us to have a lot of experience from guys that played last year," Brunson said. "We have a couple guys who didn't play varsity that are stepping in and doing well. Our team chemistry is really helping us out."

Brunson works year round on his game. While some guys are still getting back into the swing of the season, Brunson looks to be in playoff form already and commands the floor late in the game.

"I just really looked to stay in shape by running and staying on the court," he said. "I didn't want to take any days off. I just think my dad and my coaches do a good job with that."

Such a skilled player already offensively, Brunson spent a lot of the offseason becoming more well-rounded and consistent as a point guard. He knows how to get to the free throw line and is rising to the challenge as a defender.

"I think I'm still working on my defense," he said. "I really try to pinch down on other point guards on defense. I try to be consistent from the line too and be consistent overall."

And while his coaches are allowing him to step up and take the lead on defense, Brunson as well as his teammates know that it takes a group effort to win the defensive battle.

"I don't always think of it as shutting down their best player," he said. "Basketball isn't 1 on 5. It's all about team defense and we play 5 on 5 as a team."

Currently, recruiting is really an afterthought for Brunson. With his sights set on a state title this season, he keeps it in the back of his mind, but his focus is evident.

"My most recent offer was Michigan State," he said, "but I haven't been paying too much attention to recruiting."

He continued, "I haven't really visited anywhere recently. I'll probably look at visits after the AAU season and start taking a few. I just want to focus on winning a state championship."

And that state championship drive was formed months ago. After coming up just short of the top spot last season, Brunson and his teammates picked themselves up and got back to work.

"I think we have more determination," he said. "We sulked a bit last year in the locker room, but we're off to a good start and we've had a lot of improvement."

Still, many wonder what's actually going on with Brunson's recruitment. At this point, Brunson indicated no favorites, but his recruitment continues.

"I don't really want to start narrowing anything down yet," he said. "I've just been taking everything day by day and talking to my mom and dad about it."

He still hears from coaches regularly, and though he's been in the recruiting spotlight for some time now, those relationships take time to develop, and Brunson is taking the process deliberately.

"Obviously the coaches call and text me once in a while," he said. "I have a good relationship really with every head coach. I haven't had time to talk too much to these coaches yet and I just take my time with it."

Illinois head coach John Groce and assistant Paris Parham have seen Brunson several times in action so far, and Brunson cited a good relationship with the Illinois staff, but during the season, his dad is handling most of the communication.

"I have a good relationship with Coach Groce," he said, "but right now I'm letting my dad handle most of that and see how things go."


Illini Inquirer Top Stories