Illini recruiting watch: Jalen Brunson

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Illini recruiting watch: Jalen Brunson

Illinois head coach John Groce will host top point guard recruit Jalen Brunson this weekend. The visit is the first of five recruits to visit this fall. Brunson is choosing between Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue, Temple and Villanova.

Illinois head coach John Groce will host top point guard recruit Jalen Brunson this weekend. The visit is the first of five recruits to visit this fall. Brunson is choosing between Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue, Temple and Villanova.

Illinois head coach John Groce will host top point guard recruit Jalen Brunson this weekend. The visit is the first of five recruits to visit this fall. Brunson is choosing between Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue, Temple and Villanova.

Illinois head coach John Groce will host top point guard recruit Jalen Brunson this weekend. The visit is the first of five recruits to visit this fall. Brunson is choosing between Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue, Temple and Villanova.


One of the most sought-after basketball recruits in the country will visit the Illinois campus this weekend.

Jalen Brunson, a 6-foot-1 senior point guard from Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill., will take his first official visit of the fall on Aug. 29-31. Illinois head coach John Groce has visits lined up throughout the fall for five of his top targets in the high school class of 2015, with Brunson being the first. He is set to arrive on campus Friday to see what the Illini have to offer.

Groce will have the Illini fan base on the edge of its collective seat this fall while he gives his pitch to some of the nation’s top talent. Brunson’s visit this weekend will kick off a recruiting frenzy that is sure to last until at least November, when high school students can sign letters of intent to play for their future colleges.

Illinois will host four home football games between this Aug. 30 and Oct. 3, and Groce plans to host a recruit during each football weekend. While all of Groce’s 2015 targets are can’t-miss prospects, Brunson headlines the wish list of recruits for Illini fans due to a number of factors.

Why Illinois wants Brunson

Put simply, Illinois wants Jalen Brunson because he is a stud on the court. He has the size (6-1, 190 lbs) and athleticism to make an immediate impact as a freshman. If you could mold a prototypical point guard for Groce’s system, Brunson would be it. The ideal offense Groce wants to run relies heavily on a playmaking point guard, and Brunson could step in and fill that role right away. He can spread the floor, distribute the basketball and score when needed. 

D.J. Cooper was a point guard who excelled in Groce’s system while playing at Ohio, earning first-team All-MAC honors three times. Brunson has the potential to be an Illini version of Cooper, if not better.

A Brunson commitment to the Illini would have positive ramifications beyond his impact as a player. Landing such a highly rated prospect would cement Groce’s reputation as an elite recruiter, making Illinois a much more attractive option for other players with NBA aspirations. Once Groce lands his first truly elite prospect, (think McDonald’s All-American) many more could follow suit. 

Also, as an in-state prospect, keeping Brunson in orange and blue would go a long way toward bucking the trend of in-state superstars snubbing the Illini for the likes of Duke, Kansas and Kentucky. Illinois’ reputation on the national stage would skyrocket immediately.

Why Brunson should want Illinois

Playing time will be available at the point guard position in 2015-16 for the Illini, with Tracy Abrams set to graduate and Jaylon Tate still unproven. Brunson knows he could start right away for the Illini, and he could do it alongside a very strong supporting cast. The Illini will have a talented group of veteran guards in 2014-15 with Kendrick Nunn, Aaron Cosby and Malcolm Hill leading the way. Illinois has the advantage of offering Brunson playing time on a good team.

Other factors, such as the renovation of State Farm Center and the devotion of the Illini fan base, are things that likely will appeal favorably to Brunson while making his decision. Kids like to be liked, and Brunson would almost certainly be an Illini superstar before he even sets foot on campus.

The competition

As far as the nation’s top basketball players go, Brunson is unique in that college basketball’s blue bloods aren’t on his list of schools. No Kentucky, Kansas or Duke. Instead, Brunson is considering Michigan State, Temple, Villanova and Purdue along with the Illini. Michigan State is seen as the frontrunner in the Brunson sweepstakes by the “Crystal Ball” recruiting experts at 247sports.com. But Temple and Villanova are strong candidates as well.

Brunson’s father Rick played at Temple in Philadelphia before a nine-year NBA career, so the Brunsons have Philly roots. Villanova is also located near Philadelphia and has been one of the nation’s most successful programs in recent history. Purdue has been in on Brunson’s recruitment the longest, so the Boilers are on the list as well.

The visit

I don’t know exactly what Groce says to kids on these visits, but the man leaves an impression. He obviously has a personality and charisma that recruits and their families can relate to. During his visit, Brunson will likely tour the Illini facilities and campus with coaches and players and drop in on the team’s workouts. Aside from basketball, Brunson will make an appearance at Saturday’s football game vs. Youngstown State and probably hang out with the Illini players on Saturday night. Groce’s official visits last year ended with a Sunday morning breakfast at the Original Pancake House in Champaign with the recruit and his family.

The Brunsons are keeping this recruitment pretty low-key, but we’ll probably know a lot more about the Illini’s chances of landing Brunson after this weekend’s visit. It will be the first of several big weekends for Groce and his staff this fall, and you can be sure they’ll make it count.

Alex is a junior in AHS. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @aroux94.