SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Jalen Brunson is active on social media and watches quite a bit of college basketball on television, so he knew that his own fortunes as a national player of the year candidate were rising while the chances of the early favorite, Oklahoma’s Trae Young, were faltering.
But Villanova’s junior guard, named Thursday as the Associated Press college basketball player of the year, insisted that he never paid any attention to where he stood.
“I just know that whatever I can do to help make this team successful, I know individually all the things I want are going to come out of it,” he said at a news conference in the Alamodome. “I just tried so hard to focus on my teammates and what’s best for the team.
“Trae Young is a great player. Obviously their team lost some games at the end of the year, but that doesn’t take away what he did all year. He still led the country in scoring and led in assists as well.
“I just try not to focus on anything individual. Obviously there are goals of mine that I have written on my wall and everything like that, but I also have team goals. That’s what’s most important, to make sure this team can be the best team they can be by the end of the year.”
Brunson received 36 votes in the player of the year balloting, conducted at the end of the regular season, by the 65 sports media members who select the AP top 25 each week. Young was second with 15 votes and Arizona’s Deandre Ayton took third place with seven.
Brunson added that while he was humbled by the players who previously have won the award such as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Shaquille O’Neal, he called it “the last thing on my mind,” choosing instead to focus on Saturday night’s Final Four matchup with Kansas.
“I’m really focused on this great Kansas team. That’s really all I care about right now,” he said.
A great five years
A team that has had the success that Villanova has achieved the last five years certainly attracts the attention of others — in this case, Kansas coach Bill Self.
“In the last five years, they’ve lost 21 games,” Self said. “That’s 4.2 a year, think about that. And think about the league they play in and think about the nonconference schedule. So certainly not only have they recruited well, that also means they have depth. That also means the culture is great.
“Even with that being said, you still have to find a way to win games that you’re not supposed to win, or close games. Jay and his staff have figured out how to do that.
“It’s hard to say, ‘Well, they’re the best.’ Everything’s relative based on what your potential is. But certainly I think they have maximized their potential and got as close against their ceiling over time as anybody has.”
When Villanova takes on Kansas on Saturday night on TBS, a “TeamCast” event tailored specifically to the Wildcats will be aired simultaneously on TruTV.
The TruTV telecast will include team and player story lines for the Cats along with team-centric replays and other features.
Veteran Philadelphia sportscaster Scott Graham will do play-by-play for the “TeamCast,” with former Villanova star Randy Foye providing analysis and Kacie McDonnell as sideline reporter.