June 22, 2024

Jay Wright opens up on ‘Villanova Knicks’ and explains why he didn’t think Jalen Brunson would be this good

The New York Knicks are probably the greatest tales within the NBA playoffs proper now. They’re up 2-0 of their playoff sequence towards the Indiana Pacers, and look to be on a collision course with the Boston Celtics within the Eastern Conference Finals. Even with all of the accidents the Knicks have handled, they’ve managed to discover a approach to pull out wins, and that’s primarily as a result of trio of Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo.

Brunson is the pinnacle of the snake, scoring 40+ factors throughout a four-game stretch, joining an exclusive club in the process. Hart is the Swiss military knife, able to making the hustle performs, taking part in lockdown protection and hitting essential 3s when wanted. And DiVincenzo is the 3-point marksman, capturing 41.7% from deep by the playoffs. But earlier than these three had been lighting up Madison Square Garden, they had been teammates at Villanova, serving to win NCAA championships in 2016 and 2018.

Former Villanova head coach Jay Wright has seen these guys shine shiny on the most important stage, however even he didn’t think what they’re doing, particularly Brunson, was doable. 

“I didn’t think (Brunson) would be this good,” Wright stated throughout an exclusive appearance this week on CBS Sports’ Beyond the Arc podcast. “I thought he would be a point guard on an NBA championship team because he’s such a winner. I thought he’d get with a Luka Doncic — I thought that was a great situation for him. I thought he’d get with a Luka Doncic and lead a team to an NBA playoff. Maybe a more talented player might be the leading scorer, but he’d be the leader. When that talented player got hurt sometimes and he needed to score, he’d score. That’s what I thought his NBA career would be.”

Listen to the total interview between Jay Wright and John Gonzalez beneath and subscribe to the Beyond the Arc podcast for brand spanking new episodes all through the NBA playoffs.

After being drafted within the second spherical by the Mavericks in 2018 — the identical draft they landed Luka Doncic in — Brunson primarily got here off the bench in every of his first three seasons. He averaged modest numbers by these years, however was at all times second fiddle to Doncic. 

Brunson actually began to indicate indicators of changing into one thing greater than only a strong position participant in his fourth season. He turned a full-time starter, and averaged 16.3 factors whereas capturing over 50% from the ground. When Doncic missed the primary two video games of the playoffs that 12 months, Brunson is the one who put the Mavericks on his again. He dropped 41 factors in Game 2 of that sequence towards the Jazz, and the Mavericks not solely gained that spherical, however made it to the Western Conference Finals for the primary time since 2011. Had it not been for Brunson shouldering the offense in these early video games, and constantly placing up massive numbers because the playoffs carried on, Dallas wouldn’t have made it that far.

Following that season, Brunson then determined to signal with the Knicks as a substitute of staying with the Mavericks, a call that was seen as betting on himself to show he can be the No. 1 man on a crew.

“By him choosing to go to the Knicks, he chose being the go-to guy over being the complementary guy,” Wright stated. “He had a good thing there in Dallas, and he loved Dallas, and he loved Luka. But he wanted to be the guy. That’s just what is so unique about him. It’s not selfishness. He wants to lead, and he wants to carry a team. He wants the responsibility. He’s such a rare individual.”

Brunson has proven tenfold that not solely is he able to being the man he can come up enormous in clutch moments. So too have Hart and DiVincenzo. Wright recalled when Hart drilled a deep 3-pointer in his freshman 12 months when Villanova was down 5 factors to Purdue on the highway. 

“He’s a really unique guy,” Wright stated. “Throughout his career, one of the things — he did a lot of great things for us — but one of the things he always did, he was the same kind of 3-point shooter. He wasn’t known as a 3-point shooter, but any big ones, he always hit. It was incredible.”

Hart’s capturing 43.9% from deep through the playoffs, and towards the Sixers within the first spherical his 3-point capturing was a key cause why the Knicks had been so troublesome to beat. He related on 4 3-pointers in three completely different video games, proving that not solely is he able to pulling down massive photographs, he can be a constant menace from there, just like DiVincenzo.

“One of the things about Josh and Donte is — and it sounds corny and I hate that it’s corny but it’s really how these guys think and I think that’s what makes them unique and I think people are getting to see it right now. Both of them went into the NBA thinking like ‘whatever team I’m on I want to help them win.’”

The Nova-Knicks has been a humorous moniker due to Brunson, Hart and DiVincenzo all taking part in collectively as soon as once more. But similar to they did in school, they’re as soon as once more main their crew to a deep postseason run, and Wright is having fun with watching his former gamers have success on the subsequent stage.