Jalen Brunson has a label bestowed upon him.
The best Class of 2015 point guard in the state of Illinois.
Playing in the northern suburbs of Chicago at Stevenson High School, Brunson has befuddled numerous opponents this season.
Recruiting services have taken note. Ditto for college coaches.
The 6-foot left-handed Brunson is up to 11 offers heading into Saturday night’s home game against Warren, Brandon Paul’s old high school.
One is from Illinois, a school that took an early interest in the four-star recruit.
Although it seems the interest between the two parties has cooled somewhat.
“The relationship with Illinois has been an interesting one, to say the least,” said Derek Piper, a recruiting analyst with 247sports.com who covers Illinois. “The Illini were one of the first teams to offer him a scholarship last January. Purdue and Xavier were really their only competition at the time. He was a really big target for them. They were high on Groce. (Illinois) sold him as he was the point guard of the future, and they wanted him to lead the program going forward.”
Then Quentin Snider showed up.
The point guard from Louisville (Ky.) Ballard, who was committed to Illinois for roughly two months before backing off and signing with his hometown Cardinals last November, has essentially altered Brunson’s recruitment, too.
“They kind of stopped recruiting Brunson and backed away a little bit (when Snider committed),” Piper said. “Brunson took that to heart. Jalen has good things to say about Illinois. It remains to be seen, though, just how high Illinois actually is on his list.”
Illinois already has two commits in the Class of 2015.
That highly-coveted point guard Illinois coach John Groce has wanted since he arrived in Champaign, however, hasn’t exactly materialized.
“It’s interesting because what happened really isn’t that uncommon in recruiting,” Piper said. “Kansas is kind of doing the same thing with Brunson. They’ve been really off and on with him. They have a good relationship with Jerrance Howard, so maybe Kansas can get away with it and Illinois can’t. There is such a small margin for error, especially with these top recruits, and especially with Brunson, who is looking for a coach he can trust and a coach who can take him to the next level. You have a period where they stop calling you after they told you that you’re the No. 1 guy, then you allow John Beilein and Tom Izzo to jump in, and that really hurts the Illini.”
Losing six games in a row like Illinois has to fall into 11th place in the Big Ten isn’t exactly a boon for recruiting. But it’s not a complete bust either.
“The struggles don’t help, especially when other schools can sell consistency,” Piper said. “The one thing the Illini do have is Groce can sell a vision, and that Illinois is on the rise. They’ll get a couple guys next year. They already have a very good start to the 2015 class. Maybe (the losing) hurts a little bit, but it’s not going to be a determining factor.”