By Aidan Wilkins | @AidanJWilkins
Sports Capital Journalism Program
Villanova star point guard Jalen Brunson continues to add to the accomplishments of his junior season, winning the 2018 United States Basketball Writers Association Oscar Robertson Player of the Year, which is awarded to the nation’s best Division I men’s basketball player. Brunson has led the Wildcats to a 34-4 record, the program’s sixth Big East Championship, and the team’s second Final Four berth in three seasons. He has averaged 19.2 points, 4.6 assists, and 3 rebounds per game this season.
“Jalen Brunson is the most essential force on a terrific Villanova team, both a team player and dynamic individual talent,” said USBWA president Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star. “The USBWA is delighted to recognize him as our player of the year.”
Brunson is the first Villanova player and the fourth from the Big East to become USBWA national player of the year, following Doug McDermott of Creighton (2014), as well as Chris Mullin and Walter Berry, both from St. John’s and winners in back-to-back seasons (1985 and 1986). Brunson is the fifth consecutive upperclassman to win, following seniors McDermott, Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin (2015), Buddy Hield of Oklahoma (2016) and Frank Mason III of Kansas (2017).
The award was named after Oscar Robertson in 1998, as Robertson was the recipient of the first two USBWA player of the year awards in 1959 and 1960 while at the University of Cincinnati.
Robertson believes the USBWA made the correct selection this year in Brunson. “…it’s really wonderful to see a basketball game today and see a young athlete like Jalen to win this award, because I must say you did it quietly and your players relied on you to get these things done,” Robertson said as Brunson sat nearby.
“I think that a guard like Jalen controls the game,” Robertson said. “I played guard and I know what it takes.…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.”
Brunson was modest during the award presentation, thanking everyone in his life from his parents to the Villanova staff and community that has helped him to achieve such success, on and off the court.
“It really means a lot, especially in your honor (referring to Robertson),” said Brunson. “It was great hearing from you right before we got on the stage, and so just a lot of history in the game of basketball…I’m definitely humbled by that.”
Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright had nothing but praise for his leading scorer. “I think he exemplifies everything that you want a student athlete to do and especially a Villanova student-athlete,” he said.
Wright’s praise didn’t stop there. “Everything he’s done this year is to be a leader on the team, to be unselfish, to think about his teammates first, and he’s also one of the best basketball players I’ve ever been around,” the coach said.