Share this article

print logo

Jalen Brunson, Villanova's sophomore guard, is an 'old soul'

Experience will not be an issue for either Wisconsin or Villanova or Saturday as they compete for a spot in the Sweet 16.

The collection of seniors on the floor – Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds for the Wildcats, Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes and Zak Showalter of the Badgers – is as impressive of a group as there is in the NCAA Tournament.

Villanova's Jalen Brunson isn't in that class. He just carries himself like a senior.

"Coach always calls him an old soul," Hart said of Brunson, who finished with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists Thursday against Mount St. Mary's. "So having him out there – then you have Darryl, Kris, myself ... guys who are experienced, who played in the tournament last year, who played in the national championship game, guys just aren't rattled."

That ability to stay calm under pressure is something Wildcats coach Jay Wright envies.

"He's really mature for a 20-year-old. He's, sometimes I think, more mature than me," Wright said. "During games, I can get more emotional and sometimes out of control than he does, and he'll come to me and say, 'We got this coach. We're all right.'

"He looks at every practice like a coach. He dissects everything we do, and he looks at the game like an old-school guy, you know? Like one of those NBA guys from the 1980s, just an intelligent, skill-oriented game. I love all of that about him."

Brunson picked up a pair of offensive fouls on hard drives to the basket Thursday night, but Wright never worried that Brunson would put himself in a position to pick up a third before halftime.

"We started him out as a freshman on a really experienced team because he acts like a guy that's been in four NCAA Tournaments, even though he's only been in one," the coach said. "He handles everything like he's been here, you know, four times, and that's the old soul. He just acts like a really experienced person."

Brunson's 14.8 points per game ranks second on the Wildcats behind Hart's 18.7, while his 147 assists leads the team.

Wright's trust in Brunson is reflected in how much he plays, averaging more than 31 minutes per game – again, behind only Hart on the team.

"I felt like we've connected since the day he started recruiting me," Brunson said. "Just going back to those days, we were always talking, we were always on the same page and the same mindset, so I think that's why he considers me an old soul."

There are no comments - be the first to comment