Brunson leads ‘Nova in more ways than one

Jalen Brunson led the Wildcats in points in 2018 with 611, good for 19.1 points per game. He shot almost 41 percent from 3-point range, good for fourth on the team, while leading in attempts. He started all 32 of Villanova’s 2018 regular season games.

Brunson ranks seventh in the Big East in scoring, fifth in field goal percentage, eleventh in 3-point field goal percentage and fourth in assists with an average of 4.8 per game.

Brunson has brought home a slew of awards already this season, including Sporting News’ College Basketball Player of the Year, USA Today Sports Player of the Year, and most recently, the Big East Player of the Year. Brunson is the third Wildcat in four years to win the award, preceded by guards Josh Hart in 2017 and Ryan Arcidiacono in 2015, who shared the award with former Providence Friar and current Chicago Bull, Kris Dunn.

What some people don’t know is that Brunson can get it done off the court as well. He was recently named the Big East Scholar Athlete of the Year, sporting a 3.34 grade-point average, while on track to graduate from Villanova after just three years with a bachelor of arts in communication.

“I’m more proud of that than anything he’s done,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “He came in with a plan to graduate in three years in the communications program. I don’t know anyone at Villanova who’s graduated from the communications program in three years. And I’m not just talking about athletes, I’m talking about regular undergraduates. I’ve never seen anybody do it. To do that and be a great player, it’s incredible.”

Villanova University ranks no. 73 on the annual Forbes ‘America’s Top Colleges’ List. In a world where many of basketball’s finest leave school after just one year, it’s very strange to hear about such a talented player even graduating, let alone graduating early.

Brunson is also in the running for the John R. Wooden Award as the nation’s top player along with his teammate, redshirt junior forward Mikal Bridges. Other notable players on the list include Marvin Bagley III from Duke, Deandre Ayton from Arizona and Trae Young from Oklahoma.

Brunson is projected as an early-to-mid second round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, with the latest mock draft projecting him to be selected 38th overall by the New York Knicks, coincidentally the team who inhabits Madison Square Garden on a nightly basis.

The winner of the Wooden Award will be announced April 6, and the draft will be just a few months later, June 21. Only time will tell how successful Brunson will be on those nights, but it is safe to say that his legacy at Villanova is set in stone.

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