When Jalen Brunson arrives at Villanova on Thursday, it will likely be the final chance that the Wildcats' coaching staff has to convince him and his family that the Main Line is the right place for him to further his basketball career. There's plenty to sell Brunson on - Jay Wright has a history of putting guards in the NBA (Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry), as well as overseas (Allan Ray, Maalik Wayns, Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher) and gives his guards freedom to create as they please. He constantly preaches about the family aspect of the program, an aspect that
Jay Wright loves his guards, with the school affectionately taking on the name of 'Guard U' during Wright's tenure, but that has led to an influx of talent in the backcourt as fans clamor for more frontcourt depth. Here's the roster outlook as it stands today - H/T as always to MikeJ.
For Brunson's sake, we can look at 2015-16 and beyond. You've heard this a lot from me, but Jalen Brunson is a prototypical point guard - and the best one in the country at that. He's a guy who's most successful when handling the ball and making things happen, whether it's for himself or his teammates. Feel free to argue this point, but having not seen Phil Booth yet, I can't say with certainty there's another player like Brunson on the roster. This description from Mike DeCourcey sums it all up for me:
"Brunson is the kind of player to whom a coach can comfortably make this promise: Come to our school, work hard in practice and do the right things away from the gym and you will run the team for every game of your college career."
That's very high praise for a high school senior, but if you followed Brunson on the AAU circuit at all this spring and summer, you know it's not rhetoric. When was the last time Jay Wright was landed, much less was involved with, a recruit with that label? Tyreke Evans comes to mind, but he was always going to Memphis with John Calipari.
Brunson is the type of player that can lead a program and take them to the promised land. Think Kemba Walker, Peyton Siva, or Shabazz Napier in recent years. Players that can put a team on their back and win it all when called upon. Those weren't one-man teams (well, maybe except for Kemba's Huskies), but Jay Wright has been building a solid supporting cast for the last few years and now he needs the floor general to run it.
Jay Wright never guarantees playing time to recruits - everything must be earned - something that was also a part of John Groce's pitch at Illinois. If Brunson isn't scared of competition (and frankly, why should he be?), Villanova will offer him the chance at early playing time like every other school is likely to do. And frankly, at a top program like Villanova or Michigan St., you're always going to have to compete for your minutes.
With a a strong connection to the Brunson family's Philly-roots, Jay Wright's 'family' atmosphere, and the opportunity to run Villanova's fast-paced offense, this is a recruiting battle that Villanova can win. This weekend, they'll have their chance to land the biggest recruit in recent memory and take the next step following last year's Big East championship.