Coveted PG Jalen Brunson and Pops Would Be Big Coup for Temple Basketball

C.J. Moore@@CJMooreHoopsCollege Basketball National Lead WriterJuly 3, 2014

Courtesy of Garrett W. Ellwood/FIBA Americas

Update: Since publication, it has been reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer that Rick Brunson was arrested on June 25 after an alleged sexual assault. 

A year ago, Jalen Brunson had one big skeptic.

The top-rated true point guard in the class of 2015 had the rankings to tell him he had a bright future, but his famous dad, former NBA veteran Rick Brunson, was not so sure.

"I read a lot of things you guys wrote," Rick told Bleacher Report. "I was like, 'He's not that good. He's got a lot to improve on.'"

A year from now, Rick will be banking on that not-so-good point guard to help him turn around his alma mater.

Rick is set to become an assistant coach at Temple, according to report last week by Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer, and that means his son is sure to follow. When reached for comment about the Temple job by Bleacher Report, Rick declined to comment.

Of course, the writing is already on the wall.

Package deals have long been one of college basketball's dirty little arrangements. Jalen has many of the major players on his final list of schools—Kansas, Michigan, Michigan State, UConn, and Villanova—and typically it would take something fishy for a player of his stature to consider Temple.

This one lacks the shadiness, and the fact that Jalen would be such a desired commodity, especially in a recruiting year short on quality points guards, was not something Rick realized was possible a few years ago.

After losing his job with the Charlotte Bobcats after the 2012-13 season, Rick took last year off from coaching and had the chance to watch his son mature into one of the best high school guards in the country. Jalen has changed his father's perception of his game, and what was once a negative—Rick losing his job with the Bobcats—turned into a real positive for the family.

The year away gave Rick the chance to move back to Chicago, where the family has been since 2010, and to focus on helping his son improve in one his most crucial developmental years.

Jalen resembles a coach's son. He plays under control and picks his spots to attack. He doesn't chase numbers, but he puts up solid ones in the process.

"That just comes from my dad and also being a student of the game," Jalen said last week while he was helping the United States win gold at the Under-18 FIBA Americas Championships in Colorado Springs.

Jalen averaged 12 points and 5.6 assists for the U.S. and was the best point guard at the tournament, even outplaying incoming Duke freshman Tyus Jones.

Jalen could be the face of the Temple program for four years. He doesn't have great size or elite quickness to be a one-and-done future lottery pick, but he knows how to change pace to get around defenders, and he finishes well in the paint. He will immediately be one of the top guards in the American Athletic Conference and a really good college player. He's difficult to guard as a lefty with a nice jumper along with the ability to attack the paint. 

That comes from good genes, but it also comes from good coaching. Rick is quick to point out that he never stopped being a coach in the last year, even if it was from the couch. After every game, father and son review the tape. 

"If you want to improve, you've got to see yourself," Rick said. "Sometimes you don't understand if I say something, you think I'm crazy. But if you watch it, you understand, 'OK, I see it now.' 

"I'm a coach. The biggest thing is on the court I'm his coach. Off the court, I'm his father. If Billy Donovan is going to coach you hard, I should be able to coach you hard. I'm a coach. And he's great. Very receptive. He's learned to adjust to me being a coach and me being a dad."

Even though Rick has had to readjust his expectations for his son, he's still been there to temper the hype that comes with such high recruiting rankings.

Rick wants Jalen to understand who he is and what his limitations are. In addition to watching tape on himself, Rick has Jalen watch video of other similar professional guards.

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 16: Charlotte Bobcats Assistant Coach Rick Brunson directs Kelly Olynyk #67 and Steven Adams #59 on Day 1 of the 2013 NBA Draft Combine on May 16, 2013 at Quest Multiplex in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
Randy Belice/Getty Images

"I try to let him watch guys like D.J. Augustin, Steph Curry," Rick said. "See, a lot of guys get caught up in trying to be like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. That's God's gift. I try to find someone comparable to him. The Derrick Fishers of the world, (Goran) Dragic from Phoenix. Watch guys like you play like. You can't play like Derrick Rose. It's impossible."

So what is Jalen? Is his game just a carbon copy of Rick with the same skill set?

"None of it," Rick said. "People don't realize, Jalen is more athletic, shoots it better. I mean I've got bigger size. We're two different players. He doesn't play like me, because I wasn't that good."

Rick was good enough to help get Temple to four NCAA tournaments, including one Elite Eight, and average double figures three of those years for the Owls. That was back when Temple could play with just about anybody, and John Chaney was competing for McDonald's All-Americans like Rick.

His resume also includes playing nine seasons in the NBA and assistant coaching jobs with the Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Charlotte Bobcats and the University of Virginia.

This isn't your typical package deal, because Rick brings plenty of value with him as well. You could even say that Rick has benefited from his year off. He's been able to be around some of the best recruits in the country and a lot of AAU coaches.

So what you have is a former NBA player and assistant coach who has now increased his Rolodex and is an ideal candidate to recruit to a school that he loves.

This isn't a power play by the family to get Rick an assistant job.  Sure, his son sweetens the pot for Temple, but Rick would be a good hire with or without Jalen in his back pocket.

There's no doubt Rick loves Temple. Jalen grew up going to Temple's gym for Rick's workouts and rooting for the school. The family has such a strong tie to Temple that they'd consider it regardless of the circumstances. 

"He knows all about the tradition that we have there," Rick said.

Notice the "we." Rick is off to a good start pitching his alma mater.

Temple is not exactly a program in dire need, but it could use a jump start. This past season the Owls missed the tournament for the first time in seven years and talent was the missing ingredient. That's what Rick could deliver along with a connection to the past (Chaney).

His first big recruiting target will be his son, and that one should be in the bag as soon as Rick's hiring becomes official. 

C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR.


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