SAN ANTONIO, Texas – 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 award 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 also won national player of the year honors Thursday from the Associated Press.
Robertson, 79, said Brunson is someone who understands basketball and controls the game.
“I played guard, and I know what it takes,” Robertson 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 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.”
Brown on the scene
Former Kansas and 76ers coach Larry Brown paid a visit Friday at the Final Four to Jay Wright, who was a frequent host at Villanova practices when the Basketball Hall of Famer was between jobs and living close to campus.
“Having Coach Brown around us for a number of years, even when he was coach of the 76ers … when he would have a day off he would come to our practices with his staff, which blew my mind,” Wright said.
“His love of Xs and Os and the game is far beyond mine. He could watch one practice and learn everything we were trying to do and then come up with a suggestion. He probably gave me 10 suggestions, and I would use one just because they were all so good. But I just couldn’t incorporate everything.
“I think it helped us offensively a lot over his years with us, and a lot of the drills and a lot of the things we do offensively came from him spending time with us.”
Brown also dropped in this week on Kansas, the team he led to the 1988 national championship. Jayhawks coach Bill Self said Brown gave him his first coaching opportunity.
“Since I became a head coach it’s amazing how he’s stayed in touch and wanted to help me,” Self said. “I’ve been able to spend quite a bit of time with Coach, and it’s been a huge blessing for us.
“He’s also very close with Jay. So he’ll be torn. And he won’t cheer, I’m sure, for either team. But it’s awfully nice to have him around.”
Brown told reporters he had a “vested interest” in the two teams “because I love both of the coaches.
“I’m just thankful I’m around and can enjoy it and just proud of the kids and the people that have been important in my life to be here. I miss being around the coaches and teaching the kids,” Brown said.