SAN ANTONIO — Villanova junior guard Jalen Brunson received his second national player-of-the-year award in as many days Friday with the endorsement of the man after whom the trophy is named: basketball Hall of Fame member Oscar Robertson.
“It’s really wonderful to see a basketball game today and see a young athlete like Jalen win this award because I may say you did it quietly and your players relied on you to get these things done,” Robertson said after Brunson won the Oscar Robertson Trophy presented by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.
“I think anytime you can succeed in a sport like this, it means a lot. You’ve had a great career so far. It’s all in front of you now. … The way you play, you’re going to be wanted everywhere at the next level.”
Brunson, who on Thursday won national player-of-the-year honors from the Associated Press, said he didn’t learn as much about the history of basketball from his father, former Temple star and NBA player Rick Brunson, as he did finding out what it took to be able to stay in the NBA.
“He always talked about how hard you have to work and how there’s some players who were gifted who didn’t really have to work as hard to be on the team,” he said. “But why rely on your talents or on your God-given gifts?
“You have to be able to work as hard as you can, not just on the court but off the court. I think he instilled that characteristic in me and just said, ‘Whatever you do, work hard.’ ”
Robertson, 79, said Brunson is someone who understands basketball and controls the game.
“I played guard, and I know what it takes,” he said. “I know how you speed things up, slow things down. You get your team set for the offense. When they’re all out of proportion, they’re running all over the court. Boom, you go out and settle them down. They watch you. If you don’t get upset, you stay cool; they’re going to do the same thing. So Jalen has done that this season.”
Villanova coach Jay Wright said that he enjoyed speaking with Robertson backstage before the presentation, and that he brought up Brunson’s ability to post up a defender.
“Jalen and I had a thrill talking basketball with him,” Wright said. “I said to Oscar, ‘[Brunson] could back it down on a guy and post him up just like you.’ And then I thought for a second, but he’s not that big and powerful. But it is a true honor for Jalen.”