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Jay Wright on Jalen Brunson: 'I didn't think he'd be this good'

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This year’s Knicks roster has a certain Philly twang to it.

Led by Villanova alums Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo, New York is on the precipice of something special. The Knicks find themselves just two games away from a first Eastern Conference Finals appearance in more than two decades.

Brunson’s performances have garnered much of the praise, and rightfully so. He’s elevated his game to different heights since the postseason started, averaging 35.6 points, 8.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds a night in eight contests. He only recently saw his four-game streak of 40-point performances snapped. And even that came with a caveat; Brunson missed a quarter after being sidelined with a sore right foot.

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How Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, Donte DiVincenzo went from Villanova to NBA teammates

Brunson is among the NBA’s greatest talents. One of his biggest influences and advocates, though, couldn’t even dream for him to be this good.

Here’s what you need to know about what former Villanova coach Jay Wright had to say about Brunson and his fellow Wildcats teammates during a recent appearance on the “Beyond the Arc” podcast.

Wright waxed lyrical about Villanova’s former floor general, detailing his rise through the ranks as a basketball marvel. Wright indicated that on first glance, he had no idea that Brunson was going to become the player he has since developed into.

“I didn’t think he’d be this good,” Wright said. “I thought he would be a point guard on an NBA championship team because he was such a winner. I thought he could get with a Luka Doncic and lead a team to the NBA playoffs, maybe a more talented player might be their leading scorer, but he would be their leader.”

Wright had to recalibrate his expectations, though. Reminiscing on his time recruiting Brunson, the former Wildcats boss noted that Brunson has always tended to bask in the spotlight, rather than serve as a complementary piece. He did so in high school, leading public school Stevenson to an Illinois state championship in his senior season. The same was true at ‘Nova; after taking a back seat to Ryan Arcidiacano during his freshman year, Brunson led Wright’s squad to a national championship once he received the keys to the offense as a junior.

“It’s not selfishness,” Wright added. “He wants to lead and he wants to carry a team. He wants the responsibility. He’s such a rare individual. He’s the only player that really drove me more.”

Couple that with Hart and DiVincenzo’s production — Hart is averaging 18 points, 5.3 assists and 12.8 rebounds a night while DiVincenzo is sinking threes at a 41.7 percent clip and has dropped three-straight 20 point performances — and it’s no surprise why Wright is so attached to New York’s displays in this year’s playoffs.

Knicks fans will be hoping Wright’s tutelage — as well as his championship prestige — will transfer over to his pupils as their postseason run wears on. Through eight games, that certainly appears to be the case.

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