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Five Things to Know About Jalen Brunson

A brass-tacks guide to Chicago’s next hoops star

Photo: Tracy Allen/Chicago Tribune

1 He’ll drop 50 points on you. The 18-year-old Villanova-bound point guard, currently a senior at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, did it twice last season, including scoring 56 in a state tournament semifinal loss to eventual champion Whitney Young. (That’s the equivalent of 84 in a 48-minute NBA game.) In the 6-foot-1 southpaw’s arsenal: a deadly step-back jumper, a wicked crossover, and a crafty pick-and-roll move. “He can really shoot,” says his coach, Pat Ambrose. Which is one reason scouting services have him ranked as one of the top point guards nationally in the class of 2015.

2 He’ll beat you with the pass, too. “He’s an exceptional ball handler—that’s probably his number one skill,” says Ambrose. Brunson makes smart choices in transition and has a knack for the no-look dish. Playing this summer in the FIBA Americas Under-18 Championship, he posted a tourney-high 13 assists one game—albeit against Uruguay.

3 He was born with a ball in his hands. His father, Rick, clocked nine seasons in the NBA with a total of eight teams, including two years with the Chicago Bulls, before retiring in 2006. (His mother, Sandra, is no athletic slouch, either: She was a college volleyball player.) Rick’s alma mater, Temple, reportedly recruited Jalen with the carrot of an assistant coaching job for his dad. But that was before Rick was indicted for attempted criminal sexual assault in July for an encounter with a massage therapist. (His trial is slated to start December 8.)

4 He’s a cutup on social media. Brunson has amassed more than 6,000 followers on Twitter (@jbcrossover5) and even more on Instagram (jbreezy_1), where he posts pictures of pretend proposals to Beyoncé and videos of his (somewhat wanting) attempt at golf and his (rather prolonged) ice bucket challenge. “You won’t see him joke on the court, but off the court, he’s a funny kid,” says Ambrose. “He loves the Philadelphia Eagles”—Brunson grew up in southern New Jersey, moving to Illinois in 2010—“so his teammates really give it to him.”

5 He’s already endured his own mini-scandal. Call it Birdgate. In last season’s state semifinal, a journalist snapped a photo in which Brunson appeared to be giving a double middle finger salute to Whitney Young fans. The image went viral, and Brunson took to Twitter to apologize, then deleted that tweet before finally issuing an odd denial/apology. He was initially suspended for the next night’s consolation game, but that was reversed minutes before tip-off—and he led his team to a win and a third-place trophy.

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