Here are 10 things you need to know about Dallas Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson…
Brunson idolized former Mavs and Suns point guard Steve Nash growing up. It’s probably no coincidence that Brunson wears No. 13 with the Mavs — Nash’s old number.
"One of my favorite players of all time is Steve Nash, for sure," Brunson said via the Washington Post. "And I guess in today’s basketball, I love Chris Paul, the way he plays. Those are my idols just because they’re not, like, overly athletic."
"There’s no greater feeling," Nash said via the San Antonio Express-News. "It goes hand-in-hand with the Hall of Fame, to be able to influence the younger generation."
But according to the Express-News, a few more players also influenced Brunson’s game, including Dirk Nowitzki himself.
Brunson is one of Villanova’s all-time greats. He helped lead the Wildcats to national championships in both 2016 and 2018. Both titles came in Texas, with the Wildcats winning in Houston and San Antonio respectively.
In addition to the championships, Brunson was also the 2017-18 Consensus National Player of the Year and Big East Player of the Year.
Relationship with father
Brunson’s relationship with his father, Rick Brunson, shaped his career path. Rick Brunson played for the Trail Blazers, Clippers, Knicks, Bulls, Rockets, Celtics and SuperSonics in his NBA career. Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkin’s wrote about Brunson and his father, detailing the tough practices his Rick put him through:
Jalen practiced with the Virginia women’s team and enrolled in youth leagues. When he shied away from a physical defender, Rick left the gym and told him to hitch a ride home with his mother. "He yelled at me, barked at me," Jalen says. "I didn’t realize what he was doing. I hated him. I wouldn’t talk to him." …
… If he can take it from me, Rick reasoned, he’ll be able to take it from anybody. The boy would either break or crystallize. Privately Rick did worry about his relationship with Jalen and sought counsel from Bob Hurley, the famed coach of St. Anthony High in Jersey City, who raised two exceptional college point guards: Bobby (Duke) and Danny (Seton Hall).
Rick Brunson arrested in April 2014 on sexual assault charges, but was acquitted in 2015. He resigned as one of the Timberwolves’ assistant coaches in 2018 amid allegations of harassment.
Brunson is part of a long line of Chicago high school basketball legends. He attended Stevenson High School and won Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year in 2014 and 2015. He was also Illinois Mr. Basketball in 2015 and a McDonald’s All American. He led Stevenson 2015 Illinois Class 4A title in 2015.
Why the Mavs were impressed
According to SportsDay’s Brad Townsend, Rick Carlisle said the Mavericks went over their allotted 30 minutes while interviewing Brunson at the Chicago pre-draft camp. Carlisle said Brunson’s knowledge of basketball was impressive.
"I asked him if he was drafted on our team, and we had a guy like Dennis Smith, how would he go about getting minutes?’" Carlisle recalled. "He said, ‘Look, I would push Dennis hard every day and I also would love to have an opportunity to play with him because I can play off the ball, as well.’
"This guy, to us, has a real good handle on the whole game. A very resourceful view of the game. And I think an underrated ability and a great deal of toughness."
First pitch at Cubs game
Brunson got the honor of throwing out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game after Villanova won the 2016 and 2018 titles.
Let’s go to the tape – @jalenbrunson1 throwing out 1st pitch @WrigleyBlog !! pic.twitter.com/zr8bbz80Xq
— Jay Wright (@VUCoachJWright) September 19, 2016
Maybe the same could happen a Texas Rangers game in the near future?
Villanova head coach Jay Wright told Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins that Brunson always plays with a scowl on his face. From Jenkins:
He is a precocious 6’2", 199-pound playmaker who grew up with a Steve Nash Fathead on his wall, studied YouTube clips of Steph Curry and Chris Paul, and interviewed Kyle Lowry and Deron Williams while deciding between Villanova and Illinois, their respective alma maters. Unlike many modern floor generals, Brunson is not a one-man fast break. He manipulates screens, exploits angles and probes gaps, all with the dead-eyed expression of an underground fighter. "It’s a stoic, nasty look," Wright says. "He never, ever smiles. He plays with a scowl that’s inspiring to teammates but puts fear in opponents and hatred in fans."
But Brunson also has an emotional side, like when he broke down in tears after Villanova won the 2018 national championship. That was Brunson’s final collegiate game.
From Philly.com’s Mike Jensen:
At the precise emotional center of it all was Villanova’s point guard. Jalen Brunson always has been. Except the core of this group all along was a portrait of steadiness, almost a stubbornness, a declaration that this group would not be rattled.
On this night, however, Brunson came out at the end and was full-out bawling before he reached his head coach. When the scoreboards read Villanova 79, Michigan 62, Josh Hart, a hero of the 2016 NCAA champions, got in on the 2018 celebration and hugged the point guard. Kris Jenkins, author of the game-winning shot two years ago, moved in right behind and picked Brunson up off the ground. Kerry Kittles, star from two decades back, pointed to the stage, time for Brunson to get up there.
On that stage, the tears kept flowing even as Brunson held up two fingers to the crowd, making it clear this wasn’t just a "V" — it was two fingers for two titles.
According to SportsDay’s Brad Townsend, the Mavs have only drafted someone who played on a national title team in the same season three times.
Steve Alford in 1987, Milt Wagner in 1986 and Jalen Brunson in 2018.
Blue & White still
From ‘Nova to Dallas, these colors still look good on Brunson.
Our boy @jalenbrunson1 always looked good in blue and white – now in Dallas ! @dallasmavs pic.twitter.com/orDUBH11Wu
— Jay Wright (@VUCoachJWright) June 22, 2018