Two-time national champion Jalen Brunson worked out with the Indiana Pacers Thursday.
Matthew VanTryon, firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIANAPOLIS — Forgive Jalen Brunson for seeming nonchalant about his pre-draft workout with the Pacers on Thursday. It’s not so much nonchalance as it is that, well, he’s been on a big stage a time or two.
“I focus on what I can control,” he said. “I’ve been able to play in front of 70,000 multiple times. It’s never fazed me at all. It’s just basketball.”
His resume is already stacked. He won two national titles with Villanova, won national player of the year as a junior — along with the Wooden award and a host of other accolades — and averaged 18.9 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds for the Wildcats last season.
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So the pressure of the NBA draft, or a workout? What pressure?
Brunson comes from a basketball family. His dad, Rick Brunson, played for eight teams over nine NBA seasons and has spent time on various coaching staffs at the college and NBA levels. The message the younger Brunson gets from his dad is one that comes through in his demeanor.
“I talk with him every day,” Brunson said. “He tells me to go out there and do what I do. Don’t overthink anything, just play the game. I’ve worked way too hard not to be confident.”
It’s that mixture of confidence, hard work, hunger and results that has some mock drafts pegging Brunson as a late first-round pick. Sports Illustrated has him going 27th overall while CBS Sports has him going 29th in the first round. Other mocks have Brunson as a second-rounder.
But Brunson isn’t paying attention to the noise.
“That’s just someone’s opinion,” he said. “I don’t look at that at all. I focus on what I can control, and that’s how hard I play and my attitude, the way I approach the game every day. I know I put myself in a good position.”
Brunson was in the unique position Thursday morning of working out alone for the Pacers. The team’s other workouts have included multiple players, but Brunson’s schedule meant he was the only one in the gym.
“I think I did great. I have no regrets. I did everything as hard as I can,” he said. “I’m not satisfied with anything, but I think I did pretty well. You want to be able to compete against yourself and push yourself to be the best you can be.
“It’s the same mindset no matter what I’m doing. I’m just focused on getting better every day no matter who’s in the gym.”
Brunson knows this much for sure, and so does everyone else — he’s a winner. And he’s going to take that mentality into the NBA, wherever he lands.
“I honestly believe I can be one of the best players to ever play,” he said.
Follow sports producer Matthew VanTryon on Twitter @MVanTryon.