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Stevenson's Jalen Brunson powers past Jared Eck of Hinsdale Central. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
PEORIA, Ill. — Stevenson sophomore Jalen Brunson has that rare ability to pull the ball out, calmly reset the offense and assume total control of the floor.
It sounds simple, but it takes a level of skill that few high school point guards ever achieve. He’s done it as a sophomore, and that steady leadership, along with his blistering scoring ability, has the Patriots in Peoria.
“He’s definitely got that ‘it factor,’” Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. “What most people don’t see is how wonderful he is to the lunch lady. He’s really a great human being. It’s nice to see a kid as good as him be like that.”
Ambrose has watched Brunson mature by leaps and bounds this season.
“He has definitely gotten stronger since last season,” Ambrose said. “He’s more heady with the ball too. He’s one or two steps ahead of everyone else now, he seems to know what is coming.”
Brunson is the only sophomore on the Sun-Times All-State team. The Class 4A first team features another locally celebrated underclassman guard, Marian Catholic’s Tyler Ulis, along with three nationally recognized superstars: Simeon’s Jabari Parker, Young’s Jahlil Okafor and Curie’s Cliff Alexander.
Parker overcame a foot injury this summer to average 18.3 points and 10 rebounds. He was the Sun-Times Player of the Year in 2012 and the 2012 USA Basketball Player of the Year. Parker has played on Simeon’s three consecutive Class 4A state championship teams, with a lead role on the past two teams. He has signed with Duke and is widely considered the No. 2 player in the national Class of 2013.
Okafor, the 2013 Sun-Times Player of the Year, is the top-ranked player in the national Class of 2014. He led Young to the city title this season, averaging 20.7 points and 8.8 rebounds. He shot 69 percent from the field. Okafor was the 2012 MVP of Team USA’s Under-17 team. He is uncommitted.
Alexander averaged 21.3 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots while leading Curie to a 19-8 record and first place in the Red-Central. Alexander is ranked in the top five of the national Class of 2014 by most recruiting services. He is uncommitted.
Ulis was the revelation of the season, averaging 21.9 points, 4.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 steals while leading Marian Catholic to the best season in school history. The Spartans finished 29-4, losing to Edwardsville at the ISU Supersectional. Ulis shot 55 percent from the field and 38 percent from three. He is already the school’s record holder in career points (1,567) and season points (648).