In the summers of 2011 and 2013, we had the opportunity to work with Stevenson High School’s boys’ basketball team. One of their players, Jalen Brunson, now plays real minutes for Villanova as a true freshman, and will be on the biggest stage in college basketball tomorrow night as the Wildcats take on North Carolina for the national championship.
In high school, he won a state championship, the Illinois Mr. Basketball award, was a McDonald’s All-American, participated on the Team USA U-19 team, and ended his junior year as the #1 ranked point guard in the country by ESPN.
So, he’s a great player who has accomplished a lot already. We think we have an idea why.
What we saw from him in both of those sessions, first as an incoming freshman and second going into his junior year, was a genuine passion for learning. That’s right. As good as he already was, already with access to great training all around (his dad, by the way, played in the NBA), he soaked up what he saw as opportunities to get even better when we came in.
He never broke eye contact. He nodded his head when he made connections. He tried everything we showed. He went hard. The entire 2.5 hours each time we were there.
His approach to learning is what has made him great and what will help him continue to be great, and he is a phenomenal example to other players. He is confident and humble at the same time. He works hard and never lets an opportunity to improve slip away. He is a student of the game. This is what separates good from great.