Villanova Wildcats

Jalen Brunson explains decision to return to Villanova: 'Process was simple'

Jalen Brunson explains decision to return to Villanova: 'Process was simple'

Over the past month, there has been plenty of speculation as to whether or not Jalen Brunson would decide to stay at Villanova or turn pro.

For Brunson himself, though, it was never really much of a decision.

"The process was simple," Brunson told CSNPhilly.com by phone a couple of hours after Villanova announced that the star point guard would return for his junior year (see story). "I told myself and I told my family when I came here that I wanted to try to compete and win a national championship and I want to get my degree. I did one of those things, which was probably the harder part of the deal. Now I just want to get my degree."

Brunson, a freshman on the Wildcats' 2015-16 national championship team, is poised to get that degree at the end of his junior year, thanks to the emphasis he puts on education, the encouragement of Villanova's staff and a whole lot of summer classes.

Only then will he begin to look at the next chapter of his basketball journey.

"I just think with the support I have here, they all know that this is what I want to do," said Brunson, a communications major with a 3.54 grade-point average and a recent recipient of the Big 5 Scholar Athlete of the Year award. "No one has put me down saying, 'No, I don't think it's possible, I don't think you should do it.' They really encouraged me to do so and they really helped me along the way."

There were, of course, basketball factors that led to Brunson's return, as well. The rising junior loves everything about the 'Nova program and said he's excited for the opportunity to "lead the team" as an upperclassman.

And even with Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds moving on, he believes the Wildcats will remain a force after going a combined 67-9 in his first two collegiate seasons.

"Maybe we won't have the record we've had the past couple of years," said Brunson, who averaged 14.7 points and 4.1 assists per game last season. "But I know one thing: we're gonna play Villanova basketball when we're on the court. And I think the reason for the is we're gonna have another set of leaders that brings that to the table every time we step on the court."

With Brunson coming back and Phil Booth returning from an injury-riddled 2016-17 campaign, the Wildcats will certainly be loaded at the guard position next year. Brunson is especially eager to potentially share the same backcourt as Donte DiVincenzo, who came off the bench last season but looks poised to become one of the program's next big stars.

"I'm definitely looking forward to that," Brunson said. "I've been looking forward to that ever since we met. … We have a relationship. We're really close. And I think our chemistry helps us on the court. So coming back and playing with him again is definitely going to be a plus, and I'm just really excited for the opportunity."

Villanova football set for new era with 'Andy Talley 2.0' at the helm

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Dave Zeitlin/CSNPhilly.com Contributor

Villanova football set for new era with 'Andy Talley 2.0' at the helm

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Mark Ferrante walks underneath a huge sign that reads “Andrew J. Talley Athletic Center” every day. His coach’s office is in a suite named after Talley. And Talley himself is just down the hall from him, in his new administrative role at Villanova University.

All of which is to say that Ferrante is not going to be able to escape Talley’s shadow anytime soon.

Luckily for the first-year Villanova head football coach, he doesn’t want to.

“Coach Talley built this thing from the ground up when he got here in ’84 and he did a great job with the program,” Ferrante said Tuesday during his first media day at the Wildcats’ helm after serving as Talley’s assistant at ’Nova for the last 27 years. “If the winning formula and the successful formula is in place, why would you want to change anything? 

“He and I have been together a long time so he’s taught me how to do things, as far as the recruiting aspect of things, as far as running the program, as far as everything he’s developed into the culture of the program. So there are not gonna be a lot of changes from that perspective.”

Surely, though, it must feel different as Villanova prepares to begin the 2017 season — with a road game at Lehigh on Sept. 2 followed by a city showdown at Temple the next week — without Talley running the show?

The common sentiment among players during media day may have been surprising: No, no really.

“I feel like it’s more hyped up on the outside than it is on the inside,” senior linebacker Ed Shockley said. “In here, not much has changed. We still have the same coaches, the same meeting times. Everything is really similar. For us, it’s not really a big change. We lost Coach Talley and that’s a great loss. But in actuality, it’s not that much of a loss because they’re so similar. He’s Andy Talley 2.0 in a way.”

Shockley, a preseason All-CAA selection who led a dominant defense last season, is confident the Wildcats can pick up right where they left off in Talley’s final season, as they charged into the second round of the 2016 FCS playoffs before bowing out to national power South Dakota State.

That was one of 12 playoff appearances for Talley, who won 230 games during his 32 years on the Main Line. And now, judging by the fact that they’ll come into the 2017 season ranked No. 10 in the FCS, the expectations remain just as high after the coaching shuffle.

That said, Shockley did notice a few subtle differences when this year’s training camp opened.

“They’re very similar as far as their coaching styles but as far as their personalities, Coach Talley was a little more old school,” the linebacker said. “Coach Ferrante is a little more in-tune to modern day and what we like now.”

Of course, Talley is still around the program, sometimes even stopping to watch practice, or chat with players in the sparkling new facility that bears his name. That’s not an issue for Ferrante, who occasionally will lean on his old mentor for help.

“We’re not getting away from Andy Talley for the foreseeable future,” he said. “And he has an office right down the hall, which is great. It’s invaluable to have him in the building because there are things that will come up. There have been a couple already. Nothing too crazy but I’ll go in there, sit down, bounce some ideas off him, how he’d handle a situation. To have a guy like that who’s done it, as successfully as he’d done it, I think it’s great to have him around.”

In truth, Ferrante has been learning from Talley for the last three decades. And through much of that stretch, Talley has also prepared Ferrante to be a head coach, paving the way for what’s been a smooth transition (and one that neighbor Penn has shown can be successful with Ray Priore winning a piece of the last two Ivy League championships after serving as Al Bagnoli’s longtime assistant).

In some ways, the only thing that’s different for Ferrante is his official title. And he hopes few other things change — particularly the winning.

“They’ve heard me before,” Ferrante said. “I’ve spoke to the team before. Coach [Talley] put me in as the head coach of situations in years prior to now. I’ve handled banquets. I’ve been to media days. Coach has sent me to head coach’s meetings in his absence for various reasons. I’ve spoke in front of the team to break down a practice or to start a practice or in a team meeting. 

“So for the returning players, they’ve heard that before. Now they’re just hearing it more frequently.”

Villanova to play in 2017 Battle 4 Atlantis

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AP Images

Villanova to play in 2017 Battle 4 Atlantis

Villanova is once again playing basketball in the Bahamas.

The Wildcats will play in the 2017 Battle 4 Atlantis. Villanova, the tournament champs back in 2013, will be joined in the eight-team tourney by Arizona, Purdue, NC State, Tennessee, SMU, Western Kentucky, and Northern Iowa.

Villanova will take on Western Kentucky in its first game on Nov. 22 at 2:30 p.m. EST.

The 12-game tournament will run during the Thanksgiving holiday, from Nov. 22-24. 

Jay Wright's squad will also take on Gonzaga as part of the Jimmy V Classic in December at Madison Square Garden.