clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Villanova Basketball 2018 Season Recap: Jalen Brunson

New, 31 comments

Having won all there is to win, Jalen Brunson departs Villanova an all-time great.

Michigan v Villanova Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

“O Captain! My Captain!” penned Walt Whitman, the first line that would begin his grand gesture of remembrance. The occasion: The country had just lost it’s leader and one of the greatest to ever hold office, President Abraham Lincoln. Whitman’s poem, a masterpiece, is only fitting for a man of Lincoln’s stature. That is, until now.

Farewell Jalen Brunson, O Captain, my Captain! Villanova’s point guard and hero to all is moving on to tackle his next great challenge: The NBA. Brunson departs Villanova as a two-time National Champion, 2018 Wooden Award winner, and Villanova legend.

Jalen Brunson Career Stats

Season G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Season G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2015-16 40 39 24.0 3.2 7.0 45.2% 1.9 3.8 51.0% 1.2 3.2 38.3% 2.1 2.7 77.4% 0.5 1.3 1.8 2.5 0.7 0.0 1.8 1.8 9.6
2016-17 36 36 31.1 5.1 9.4 54.1% 3.9 6.3 62.1% 1.2 3.1 37.8% 3.3 3.8 87.6% 0.5 2.1 2.6 4.1 0.9 0.0 2.1 1.6 14.7
2017-18 40 40 31.8 6.8 13.0 52.1% 4.6 7.7 59.9% 2.2 5.3 40.8% 3.3 4.1 80.2% 0.3 2.8 3.1 4.6 0.9 0.0 1.8 2.0 18.9
Career 116 115 28.9 5.0 9.8 51.0% 3.5 5.9 58.7% 1.5 3.9 39.3% 2.9 3.5 82.0% 0.4 2.1 2.5 3.7 0.8 0.0 1.9 1.8 14.4

Quantifying Jalen Brunson’s total contribution to Villanova Basketball, even from just a statistical perspective, is no easy task. His counting stats were dazzling, but beyond these the All-American point guard made his presence felt all over the court. Brunson finished top five this season in the NCAA in offensive win shares, total win shares, and offensive box plus/minus. To simplify, Brunson wasn’t only putting up numbers, he was doing it with a purpose, when it mattered, and to the benefit of all of his teammates.

For his career, Brunson departs 14th in all-time scoring and 13th in assists in Wildcats history. He also finishes his Big East career top ten all-time in true shooting percentage, offensive rating, offensive win shares and win shares per 40. His leadership and winning attitude, however remain immeasurable.

A Brunson Retrospective

As a five-star recruit, the expectations were understandably high for Jalen Brunson because the pedigree was already there. The Lincolnshire Illinois native arrived on campus having led his high school to a state title and his U19 team to a FIBA World Championship. Would you be surprised to learn Brunson won Illinois Mr. Basketball honors, as well as MVP of the U19 FIBA tournament?

As a freshman, Brunson fit seamlessly into a lineup of upperclassmen, contributing as a role player wherever and whenever he was needed. Brunson showed glimpses of his talent during the Wildcats’ 2016 National Championship winning season, but the best was yet to come. As a sophomore, Brunson slotted in as Villanova’s starting point guard and continued to produce efficiently even as he saw a higher usage rate. The Wildcats flamed out of the NCAA tournament that year, but Brunson was poised to return as the team’s leader.

In what would be his final act, Jalen Brunson entered his junior year with a new bag of tricks with which he would torture his opponents. The Wildcat point guard was not only an excellent shooter and finisher at the rim as a third-year starter, but also shooting deep three pointers off the bounce, making slick bounce passes in the lane, and posting-up guards for buckets with ease. As a result, Brunson could deftly pick and choose his spots, sometimes opting for the facilitator role, other times taking control.

It’s nearly impossible to single out any particular performance as his best, but two stand out. Against a feisty Providence team in the Big East Championship game, Villanova’s leader took over late in regulation and again in overtime, powering his team to a title on the strength of 31 points, six rebounds and four assists while shooting 12-23 from the floor.

Two weeks later in the NCAA tournament, Brunson went head-to-head against one of the NCAA’s best defenders in Jevon Carter and notched 27 points on 8-15 shooting, going 8-9 from the free throw line in a game where Villanova struggled to run its offense. It was always the case that when the Wildcats needed baskets, Jalen Brunson was there.

Looking Ahead to Life Without Brunson

Jalen Brunson’s departure leaves a gaping hole in Villanova’s roster that can’t realistically be filled. His efficient shot making, passing ability, and on-court composure are one of a kind, but Jay Wright and Villanova have always found a way to continue to play Villanova Basketball year after year.

In 2018-19, the Wildcats will look to several players to continue Villanova’s tradition of outstanding guard play. With Phil Booth returning and Collin Gillespie having demonstrated his ability in meaningful minutes, Villanova will have steady hands at the helm. The ‘Cats will have high expectations for five-star recruit Jahvon Quinerly, the #24 player in the country and highest recruited point guard to come to Villanova since Brunson. The combination of Booth’s experience, Gillespie’s development, and Quinerly’s talent should give Villanova what it needs to handle life after Brunson.

O Captain! My Captain! is an elegy, and a mournful one at that. We need not mourn for Jalen Brunson’s departure, though. Instead, let’s celebrate Brunson for all he did as a Villanova player, on and off the court, and all he will do as a professional and beyond.