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'A Great Leader': Jay Wright on What Knicks Get in Jalen Brunson

Brunson's former college coach seems to think that the newly minted Knick is worth every penny.

Jay Wright took a break out of retirement to grant a ringing endorsement to Jalen Brunson, one of the newest New York Knicks who is set to arrive on a nine-figure contract.

Granted, Wright is a little biased: the pair collaborated on a pair of national championship efforts at Villanova University and Brunson is one of his proteges scattered across NBA rosters. 

Knicks fans, however, should be encouraged by Wright's recent words to Forbes, which hinted that Brunson is only starting to reach his full professional potential. 

“Jalen is a true professional,” Wright told Forbes. “He takes his craft seriously every day. He studies the game, tweaks his game in the offseason, and respects the game in-season. As he matures into a veteran, he will be a great leader!"

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Under Wright's watch, Brunson earned several national Player of the Year awards and the Big East Player of the Year title after his third and final season in 2018. He then went on to become the Dallas Mavericks' second-round pick in the ensuing draft and spent four consistent seasons with the team before a postseason breakout made him one of the most coveted free agent point guards. 

Wright, who recently stepped down from the Villanova helm after 21 seasons, seems to believe that the Knicks will benefit most from Brunson's sense of leadership. One quick look at his resume hints that he has plenty of evidence to back up his boss credentials, as Villanova amassed a 103-13 record during Brunson and Wright's three years of collaboration. The two also know how to win at Madison Square Garden, as Brunson was a part of two of Wright's five Big East Tournament titles. 

Searching for a leadership opportunity likely played a big role in Brunson's eventual decision to come to New York: rumors persisted that he sought a larger starring role in an effort to escape the shadow of Dallas' franchise face Luka Doncic. With Doncic injured during the first three games of the Mavericks' Western Conference playoff run, Brunson averaged 32 points and helped the team jump out to a 2-1 series lead over Utah in their opening postseason set. 

Brunson isn't the only Wright protege to hear some good news with the NBA's free agency negotiation period underway: another recent Villanova departure, Collin Gillespie, was signed by the Denver Nuggets after the draft while Donte DiVincenzo inked a two-year, $9.3 million deal with the defending champion Golden State Warriors.