Lincolnshire’s Jalen Brunson celebrates Villanova’s memorable national title game win
HOUSTON – When the moment happened, he wasn’t exactly there.
But he was close, really close.
After it occurred, he made sure to get to the exact point rapidly.
Sitting bench below the court at NRG Stadium, Jalen Brunson watched as the ball crossed the midcourt line. Three seconds were left and his Villanova team was tied at 74 with North Carolina, who’d just evened the game with an acrobatic three of their own by Marcus Paige.
Brunson, a native of Lincolnshire and 2015 Illinois Mr. Basketball, remained seated as Ryan Arcidiacono made his way to the top of the circle. As he turned to pitch it to Kris Jenkins outside the wing, Brunson started making his way out of his chair.
As Jenkins rose up to take the game winning shot, Brunson stepped his right leg onto the floor as it flew towards the basket. The ball arched up and then on the way down towards the net and as it got closer the freshman guard push himself off his right leg up onto the floor.
By the time Jenkins’ shot swished through the hoop as time expired, Brunson was already on the floor. Arms flailing as he rushed onto the floor, he first went for Arcidiacono who gone the otherway down the floor as Jenkins nailed the game winning three.
After a momentary embrace, Brunson turned immediately towards the main pile around Jenkins who was basking in the glow of one of the biggest shots in basketball history.
It’s a long way from Carver Arena in Peoria where the Lincolnshire native was about year and two weeks earlier. Instead of leading Stevenson to a IHSA championship, he was now on the floor embracing his Wildcats teammates as a National Champion with all the basketball world to see.
This moment highlights the end of an incredible first season at Villanova for Brunson, who started all but one of the 40 games played by the national champs in the 2015-2016 season. While he had a quiet night on the floor-22 minutes, four points one rebound, he had his hand in helping the team reach the pinnacle of college basketball for the first time in 31 years.
He averaged 9.7 points and 2.6 assists per game in his first season starting for Villanova and kept those numbers consistent for most of the NCAA Tournament.
He also becomes the latest in a long list of Chicago-area players to win a National Championship-making the eighth time in the last nine years that at least one player on the title team comes from the Windy City area.
One of those players from last year’s championship team, former Whitney Young star Jahlil Okafor, sent a shout out to Brunson on Twitter.
Just as he did for the Patriots in Peoria last year, Brunson did the same with the Wildcats on Monday night-cut down the nets with a big crowd around him.
The end of the game was also about family for Brunson, who had his mother and father at the game. This moment following the game was captured on Twitter by ESPN writer Jeff Goodman.
When he finally got back to the locker room, here’s what Brunson had to say to reporters, including Sports Illustrated’s “Campus Rush.”
As he left the arena, he had one more chance to pose with the trophy and Arcidiacono-who had the game-winning assist and was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
That wrapped up quite a night for Brunson whose contributions gave him a piece of one of the most memorable college basketball national championships of all time.