By Michael McCarthy

Brunson will join a talented cast for Jay Wright (above).

Brunson will join a talented cast for Jay Wright (above).

That earthquake you might have felt yesterday was the reaction of the national college basketball world to Jalen Brunson’s decision to attend Villanova next fall and play for coach Jay Wright.

As of last week, Brunson’s commitment wasn’t expected to end so quickly. He had just visited Illinois, and had plans to check out Villanova, Temple, Michigan State and Purdue.

After visiting Villanova, though, Brunson was ready to end his recruitment – and the Wildcats must have done a tremendous job of convincing him on his visit.

Brunson committed to Villanova on Wednesday, announcing his decision at a press conference before donning a ‘Nova T-shirt and hat.

He chose the Wildcats over fellow finalist Illinois, although Brunson’s recruitment was far from that simple.

As Brunson ascended to the top of the point guard rankings, a number of schools became involved. He trimmed his list to eight in May, with Michigan State, Connecticut, Purdue, Illinois, Kansas, Villanova, Michigan and Temple remaining.

It was tough to get a read on his recruitment — until his father, Rick Brunson, was on the verge of being hired as an assistant coach at Temple. The thought was that his son would follow, and the Owls would land a five-star prospect. Then Rick Brunson was arrested for an alleged sexual assault, and the job rumors soon disappeared. As did Temple’s status as the frontrunner. Michigan State looked to make up some ground, but visits to Illinois and Villanova cemented those two as the leaders.

Both Jay Wright and John Groce made their final pitches on Tuesday, but the Wildcats won out.

Brunson is the highest-rated point guard to commit in the class of 2015, and here are his vitals:

  • Height: 6-foot-1
  • Weight: 190 pounds
  • Position: Point Guard
  • Ranking: No. 18 in the 247Sports Composite (No. 2 PG)
  • High School: Adlai E. Stevenson HS (Ill.)
  • AAU: Mac Irvin Fire
  • Stats: 17.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 2.7 steals on Nike EYBL circuit (15 games)

One of the best pure point guards in the class of 2015, Brunson can run a team like few others in high school basketball. The lefty is adept in the half-court, initiating offense for himself and others. He is also capable of knocking down shots from the perimeter so defenses can’t sag off consistently, and he has also improved his mid-range and pull-up arsenal. In transition, Brunson is outstanding — without having next-level speed. He controls tempo, changes speed and has great vision, especially when pushing the ball. His basketball IQ and feel are terrific, as well. Brunson has gotten better throughout the course of his career, and his ability to score and create will fit in well with Jay Wright and Villanova.

Under Wright, the Wildcats have been known for their annual allotment of talented perimeter guards. The NBA-level ones have dropped off a bit lately, but Brunson is next in a long line of big-time guards. From Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry to Maalik Wayns and Corey Fisher, Wright knows how to use his guards. Projecting Villanova’s 2015-16 roster, the Wildcats will still have starter Ryan Arcidiacono in the backcourt, but Dylan Ennis and Phil Booth will be the only other returnees. It’s not hard to see Arcidiacono and Brunson in the backcourt together — both players can score themselves and create for others.

Brunson is the third commitment for Villanova in the 2015 class, joining shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo and power forward Tim Delaney. Divincenzo is a four-star shooting guard from Delaware who committed back in January, while Delaney is a New Jersey native that pledged last summer. DiVincenzo will help shore up the backcourt with the loss of Darrun Hilliard after the upcoming season, while Delaney can provide frontcourt depth. Outside of Hilliard, the only other player Villanova is scheduled to lose is senior forward Jayvaughn Pinkston. While it’s nice the Wildcats are only likely losing two players, they happen to be the team’s two best players. Brunson will certainly have to make an immediate impact — and he’s ready for the role.

Villanova still has two scholarships available for this class, and it’s unclear where Wright will use them. The Wildcats looked like the favorite for forward Chris Silva, but things have cooled off between the two. They are on his final list of five, but are the lone school not expected to get a visit. With Brunson in the fold, the Wildcats are likely done in the backcourt. But where will they look in the frontcourt? One interesting thing to note will be Villanova’s pursuit of 2016 point guard Payton Pritchard. Wright and assistant coach Baker Dunleavy went to Oregon on Tuesday to watch him; will Brunson’s commitment have an impact?

Why he committed: The opportunity to play early as a freshman in a system that plays a multiple-guard lineup was attractive. “There was a comfort level with coach [Jay] Wright, and he is a proven guard coach,” Brunson’s father, Rick, said.

What he brings: As a classic point guard, Brunson can see and read the game. There are not many guards who look to throw it into the post, but Brunson does it better than most. He’s a pass-first point guard who will run the team, but he can also knock down elbow jumpers and has improved his 3-point shot into a viable option. This lefty can take a bump and protect the ball on his drive. He already owns a high basketball IQ, but he still wants to improve, as he possesses a teachable spirit to learn and grow as a player.

He also boasts a strong basketball bloodline, as his father Rick was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game in 1991. He went on to be a standout at Temple and spent nine seasons in the NBA.

“[Jalen] brings a competitive spirit and winning to the game,” Rick Brunson said.

How he fits: Wright has had tremendous success developing and winning with strong guard play, as players such as Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye, Scottie Reynolds and Mike Nardi come to mind. The Wildcats play a four-out-one-in motion offense, which usually means three- and four-guard lineups. They space the floor with two high and two wide playmakers in constant motion, exchanging and replacing each other out on the perimeter. Wright loves to keep the paint open to allow his guards to drive and score or find the next open teammate. There are plenty of random ball screens in Villanova’s attack to keep the defense off balance.

Who he reminds us of: He has shades of former great Saint Joseph’s and current NBA point guard Jameer Nelson. Both are built with a stocky frame and a crafty dribble to set up their teammates or score the ball with the drive or jumper. Brunson scored 56 points in the Illinois state championship game for Stevenson High, so he has shown he can carry a team as well as run one.

How the class is shaping up: DiVincenzo has versatility on the perimeter with college-ready skills, such as a pull-up game and the ability to make consecutive 3s in a contest, while Delaney rebounds, runs and defends the paint. Brunson puts a bow on this senior class. The staff will now hone in on ESPN 60 prospects guard Tyus Battle and center Omari Spellman.

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