For a guy like Jalen Brunson, making the first cut for the USA Basketball U18 team is not only a confirmation of his skillset.
It also allows him to compete against players a year older, such as Duke freshmen Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow and Arizona freshman Stanley Johnson.
“It’s great not just because of the physical aspect but they’ve been here [with USA Basketball] twice,” the 6-foot-1 Brunson out of Lincolnshire (IL) Adlai Stevenson told SNY.tv by phone from Colorado Springs. “They’ve won two gold medals so they’re very experienced. And their teaching has really helped.”
Brunson made the first cut to 15 on Thursday and hopes to make the final cut of 12 later this month.
“I’m very excited but at the same time I’m humbled becasue they obviously know what I can do on the court, what I can bring to the team and I can just play hard all the time,” Brunson said. “I can really just work hard for them.
“Not just being one of those guys who needs to make plays all the time, it’s about all effort. So that’s what I’m really coming into it.”
On the recruiting front, Brunson has cut his list to eight schools — Michigan State, UConn, Purdue, Illinois, Kansas, Villanova, Michigan and Temple — and has said he hopes to decide before the high school season begins.
He has no visits scheduled at the moment.
“Mostly it’s all the same from the same schools,” he said. “They’re just coming at me from different angles but for the same reasons. They want to get me on the campus and they want to show me what their school’s about and we’ll just see later this summer.”
Brunson previously discussed Michigan State, Kansas and UConn with SNY.tv, and added that home-state Illinois is attractive, too.
“They’re a great program, they’re obviously a very good program,” he said. “They’ve recruited some good guys in the class above me, but just getting a good relationship with the coaches and players is really going to help me figure out where I want to go.”
For now, Brunson’s focus remains on making the USA U18 team for the FIBA Americas U18 Championship later this month.
“It would mean a lot just to play for the name on the front of my jersey, not behind,” he said. “It’s really just a blessing, very humbled to be here.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.