Villanova has had its share of great basketball players; Ed Pinckney, Doug West, Kyle Lowry, Kerry Kittles. All of these guys were All-Americans who helped Nova shine on the big stage against the countrys best teams, but none of them ever won the Associated Press mens college basketball Player of The Year award that junior point guard Jalen Brunson was blessed with on Thursday as Nova prepares to meet Kansas on Saturday in the Final Four.
Jalen Brunson met with the media in San Antonio after being awarded the AP National Player of the Year. He is the fourth ever BIG EAST Player to win the award and the only Villanova Wildcat to earn the honor.
Brunson earned 36 of 65 votes from the same panel that selects the AP Top 25, with ballots submitted before the start of the NCAA tournament. The award also comes two days after Brunson was the leading vote-getter on the AP All-America first team. Brunson, son of former Temple guard Rick Brunson, said all of these accomplishments were on his bucket list before entering Nova three seasons ago.
Jalen Brunson named @AP_Sports National Player of The Year The @NovaMBB guard is the 4th #BIGEASThoops player to ever receive the honor. Patrick Ewing – 1985 Walter Berry – 1986 Doug McDermott – 2014 Jalen Brunson – 2018
“It’s written on my wall,” Brunson said of being an All-American and player of the year in an interview with the AP. “It’s something that I strived for but never really focused on. I just knew that the more team success that we had, the individual honors would come. I just really focused on what the team needed and how I could be a key contributor.”
Brunson beat out Oklahomas young gunner Trae Young, who finished second with 15 votes after leading the country in scoring (27.4) and assists (8.7). He also go the nod over Arizonas highly-hyped freshman Deandre Ayton, who earned seven votes after averaging 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and shooting 61 percent from the floor.
Duke freshman Marvin Bagley III finished a distant fourth after leading the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring (21.0) and rebounding (11.1) and helping Duke to the Elite Eight.
Its only right that Brunson win the award. Hes not only averaging 19.2 points per game, shooting nearly 53 percent from the floor, 41 percent from the 3-point line and 81 percent from the foul line, but his leadership, grit, humility and calm demeanor makes him the perfect leader for Villanova and helped the Wildcats spend a national-best eight weeks at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 this year before nabbing the No. 1 seed in the NCAA East Region.
Jalen Brunson 27 points, including 3 three-pointers, in Villanova’s Sweet 16 victory over West Virginia. Watch highlights, game recaps, and much more from the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament on the official NCAA March Madness YouTube channel.
Brunson came to Villanova and had to chill and wait his turn to burn as Josh Hart was the go-to guy for Nova and led the Wildcats to an NCAA championship in 2016. Brunson wasnt the first-option in crunchtime but he wasnt a freshman playing the sidelines with no effect on the outcome of the game. Brunsons maturity as guard was evident in the 2016 March Madness regional final against Kansas Brunson clutch free throws, giving the Wildcats a two-possession lead with 3.5 seconds left.
With full reign of the squad this season, Brunsons objective was to leave an impactful and memorable legacy at Nova before moving on the NBA Draft.
Any way you slice it, Brunson has left his imprint all over the Nova program and helped revive the prominence of the Big East in NCAA Tournament play. If he can capture his second national championship in three seasons (with all due respect to Rollie Massimino and the Hoya destroyers from 1985) Brunson will be the guy who folks identify with when mentioning the greatest run in Villanova hoops history.