Knicks: How Jalen Brunson went from college star to rising NBA sensation

knicks, jalen brunson

Jalen Brunson has risen to the forefront of the NBA’s biggest market as a key player for the New York Knicks. Brunson’s career has been a remarkable journey of dedication, hunger, and humility. From his beginnings in New Jersey to his outstanding performance at Stevenson High in Illinois and then at Villanova under Jay Wright, Brunson has consistently showcased his skills and work ethic.

As the son of former NBA player Rick Brunson, Jalen entered the NBA with lofty expectations. But the right leadership and guidance throughout his career have molded Brunson into one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NBA at only 26 years old.

Jalen Brunson has been a star since high school

Brunson has been devoted to his craft since his days at Stevenson High in Lincolnshire, Illinois. At a young age, Brunson was dribbling two basketballs around the block and completing layup drills in which he would put the ball in the net 200 times. Brunson has shown his grit and commitment from his youth and always possessed the will to be a winner, leading Stevenson High to a title in 2015. He was awarded Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year in 2014 and 2015 and was named Illinois Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American in 2015. His achievements solidified his status as a 5-star recruit.

Becoming a champion at Villanova

Brunson began the next stage of his basketball career at Villanova. Under the guidance of Jay Wright, Brunson’s skills flourished at Villanova. With a relentless work ethic, Brunson utilized his skills to become an asset to the Villanova basketball program.

The former BIG EAST Player of the Year embraced a rigorous work ethic and prioritized nutrition and fitness, opting for healthy choices like frozen fruits and smoothies over junk food. Taking his craft and his nutrition so seriously translated onto the court where the Nova Wildcats won a championship in 2016.

The Wildcats went back to the dance in 2017. During the tournament, Brunson Scored 27 against West Virginia as well as an 18-point, six-assist performance against Kansas en route to his second National Championship victory. Despite his stellar resume and collegiate success, NBA scouts were skeptical of Brunson’s potential.

Rising up the Dallas Mavericks’ depth chart

NBA scouts were skeptical of Brunson’s potential due to concerns about his size and athleticism as a 6-foot-2 guard entering the league. What scouts couldn’t realize, however, was Brunson’s heart. After being selected with the 33rd overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Brunson wanted to be more than just an NBA journeyman.

He started 38 games his rookie season and even less the following year while playing behind both Luka Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. But Brunson was undeterred by his limited playing time and stayed ready, consistently improving and contributing, leading to his name rising on the Mavericks’ depth chart.

After reaching career highs in points (16.3) and assists (4.8) in the 2021 regular season and performing well in the playoffs, Brunson went into contract negotiations with the Dallas Mavericks with a chip on his shoulder. Brunson knew his worth and his capabilities yet the Mavericks were not willing to hand him his desired extension.

Embracing new horizons with the New York Knicks

Following failed negotiations with Dallas, Brunson tested the market in the summer of 2022. On July 12, 2022, the Knicks announced that “Brunson Burner” himself had signed with New York. Knicks President Leon Rose stated, “He’s a competitor, a leader, a playmaker, and most importantly a winner.”

Brunson set new career-highs in points (24.0), assists (6.2), steals (0.9), and three-point percentage (.416) during his first season with the Knicks. He dropped 40 points on four separate occasions throughout the 2022 regular season and elevated his play further during the postseason.

Despite Brunson’s breakout regular season, the Knicks guard was snubbed from the NBA All-Star Teams. NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley couldn’t believe Brunson was snubbed. “I’m kind of shocked Jalen Brunson didn’t make it,” he said. “I think this is one of the best free agent signings in a long time.”

During the 2023 NBA Playoffs, Brunson put the league on notice, averaging 27 points per game and leading the Knicks to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. While the Knicks’ season didn’t end with an NBA Finals Championship, the team took a big step forward in 2022.

Brunson’s unwavering dedication, commitment, and dynamic playmaking abilities have propelled him from a college standout to a rising star in the NBA. As a young player with All-NBA potential, Brunson’s journey serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and passion in achieving greatness on the court.

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