New York Knicks starting point guard Jalen Brunson, a two-time NCAA champion at Villanova, is set to become the only second Wildcat after Paul Azirin, one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players, to get his jersey number retired.
The Villanova Wildcats announced Tuesday that they are retiring Brunson’s No. 1 jersey during halftime of their Feb. 8 game against DePaul at Finneran Pavilion.
The Knicks could be in Philadelphia that day after a road game in Orlando on Feb. 7, as they are slated to face the 76ers on Feb. 10.
Brunson had a storied college career at Villanova before jumping to the NBA after his junior year. On his way to helping the Wildcats win two national championships, he also amassed some of the most prestigious individual awards in college basketball. In 2017-18, Brunson was the nation’s top player, winning the Oscar Robertson, John R. Wooden and Naismith trophies. He also earned the Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard and Big East Player of the Year honors.
His basketball exploits did not stop Brunson from excelling in academics. He was a 2018 second-team CoSIDA Academic All-American and the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Even after turning pro and earned a multi-million contract with the Dallas Mavericks as a second-round pick, Brunson still went on to finish his studies, earning his degree from Villanova in 2019.
“Jalen put together one of the most amazing Villanova Basketball careers ever,” said Wildcats head coach Kyle Neptune, who was Jay Wright’s assistant when Brunson led them to two national titles. “His remarkable will and work ethic left an indelible mark on our program.”
“He set a standard of excellence, on and off the court, that still impacts us today. We can’t wait to celebrate Jalen’s legendary Villanova career with the Nova Nation.”
After three seasons, Brunson left the Wildcats with 1,667 points (14.4 points per game) and delivered 432 assists (3.7 assists per game).
A five-star recruit, the lefty guard immediately started in the backcourt for the Wildcats, who finished the season with a 35-5 record en route to the 2016 NCAA title on Kris Jenkins’ epic game-winning three-pointer.
In his sophomore year, Brunson was named first-team All-Big East as he led the Wildcats to a 32-4 record and the Big East regular season and tournament titles.
In his final year with the team, Brunson spearheaded the Wildcats to another NCAA title run, finishing the season with a 36-4 record. In 2019, Brunson was named the College Player of the Decade by Sporting News.
Brunson is having a stellar first season with the Knicks after spending his first four years in the NBA with the Mavericks.
The 26-year-old guard is averaging a career-high 22.5 points and 6.3 assists for the Knicks.
Entering Tuesday’s home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Knicks have a 25-23 record, good for seventh in the Eastern Conference.
After his jersey retirement, the Knicks backcourt leader could set his sights on the All-Star game later in February as a potential All-Star reserve.
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