NEW YORK — Jalen Brunson and the Villanova Wildcats continued their early-season success with a 69-52 win over Georgia Tech in the NIT Season Tip-Off Championship on Friday at Barclays Center.
The 6-foot-2 Brunson finished with 13 points, three rebounds and two assists on 5-for-8 shooting. The freshman guard was named the MVP of the event, and earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team, along with teammate Josh Hart.
“I’ve said this before, he is a combination of Ryan Arcidiacono and Kyle Lowry,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Brunson. “He’s got some of what both of them have. … He’s got the basketball IQ of Kyle, which I don’t think people give him enough credit for. Kyle is one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached. He’s got the mental toughness and the maturity of Ryan Arcidiacono.”
Said Brunson: “Coach Wright and the coaching staff and all my other teammates, they put me in the right position to be successful. I just have to give the right feeds at the right time. It’s really a credit to them.”
A top-20 recruit, Brunson is a true freshman, having played his high school ball at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois. As a senior, Brunson was named to the McDonald’s All-American Game and won his second Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year award.
Wright has the reputation (and track record) of developing young guards, and that stuck out to Brunson during the recruiting process.
“Just knowing coach’s reputation with guards is really good, I really wanted to come here and be coached,” he said. “I’m open to coaching and open to getting better.”
This past summer, Brunson was part of the 12-man United States’ FIBA Under-19 World Championship team. Brunson earned MVP of the tournament after averaging 14.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and team highs of 5.6 assists and 2.1 steals per game during the tournament.
Brunson is currently projected to be the No. 27 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com. However, the freshmen point guard has shown that he has the potential and talent to go to the NBA after just one season at Villanova.
“He definitely has the talent to be one-and-done,” Wright said. “That’s a decision he’ll make at the end of the year.”
The Big East has not seen one of its players leave for the NBA after one season since 2013 when Steven Adams departed Pittsburgh after his freshman season.
Yet this year, Brunson could be one of two Big East players leaving for the NBA after only one year of college ball. Marquette’s freshman forward Henry Ellenson, who won MVP honors after Marquette won the Legends Classic over Arizona State on Tuesday, is projected to be the No. 8 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
If Brunson continues his high-level of play throughout the season, he could be joining Ellenson in the first round.
“I like him a lot,” one NBA scout said of Brunson. “He’s smart, highly skilled and clever with the ball. He’s a very good college freshman. Physically, he’s very average or below for the NBA.”
Wright and the rest of Wildcat nation will be relying on Brunson throughout the season, and will need him to deliver if they want to do some serious damage come NCAA Tournament time.
Stanford Defeats Arkansas in Consolation Game
For the majority of the NIT Season Tip-Off consolation game, Arkansas held a double-digit lead over the Stanford Cardinal.
But the Cardinal closed the game on a 21-1 run, and came out of Brooklyn with a 69-66 victory over the Razorbacks.
Leading the way for Stanford was senior forward Rosco Allen, who finished with a game-high 25 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Eleven of Allen’s points came during that big run to end the game, including a pair of free throws with two seconds remaining to help clinch the Cardinal victory. Allen was named to the All-Tournament Team. Marcus Allen and Michael Humphrey each finished the game with 12 points.
For Arkansas, senior guard Anthlon Bell led the way with 17 points. Sophomore forward Moses Kingsley recorded the game’s only double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Both Bell and Kingsley fouled out during Stanford’s late-game surge.And like ZAGS on Facebook