Jalen Brunson will return to Villanova for his junior season.
The school made the announcement Thursday, ending speculation that the Wildcats' star point guard would declare for the NBA draft or at least go through the process before making a decision, as former teammates Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins did a year ago.
“Jalen is an outstanding student who loves being at Villanova and wants to complete his degree by the end of his junior year,” Wildcats head coach Jay Wright said in a statement. “This was a simple decision made by Jalen’s family. Jalen wants to graduate, be a leader on this year’s team, and compete for a championship.”
Brunson averaged 14.7 points and 4.1 assists last season as the Wildcats won the Big East regular season and tournament championship. They were upset by Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament and finished 32-4.
His return means the Wildcats will be expected to make another deep tournament run. Villanova loses seniors Hart, Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds but still has plenty of talent coming back in Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Eric Paschall and Phil Booth and coming in with Omari Spellman and freshmen Collin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Jermaine Samuels.
As many citizens in Puerto Rico continue to struggle with the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, Villanova basketball has decided to use its platform to raise money for relief.
The Villanova men’s and women’s teams will host an exhibition doubleheader Nov. 1 at the Jake Nevin Field House, with all ticket sales benefiting the organization “Unidos Por Puerto Rico.” Villanova is also encouraging fans to make additional donations at this website.
The Wildcats women's team will play East Stroudsburg (Division II) at 6 p.m. The men’s team will follow, with a contest against Drexel at 8:30 p.m.
“The impact of Hurricane Irma on our fellow citizens of Puerto Rico has been tragic,” Villanova athletic director Mark Jackson said. “We are grateful that the NCAA is permitting its members to participate in making donations in this unique way as we get ready for the college basketball season. I hope the Nova Nation will join us in supporting this relief effort.”
The men’s team, ranked No. 6 nationally in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll, was upset by Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season after a national championship campaign in 2015-16.
The Villanova women finished last season 20-15 overall, making a run to the semifinals of the WNIT before falling to Michigan, 65-11.
Both teams start the regular season Nov. 10, with the women visiting Hartford and the men taking on Columbia at the Wells Fargo Center.
For the fourth year in a row, Villanova was picked to win the Big East in the league's preseason coaches' poll.
The Wildcats received eight of the 10 possible first-place votes in the poll, which was released on Wednesday and doesn't allow coaches to vote for their own teams. Seton Hall and Xavier received the other two first-place votes.
Villanova finished the 2016-2017 season with a 15-3 record in the Big East, good for first place in the conference, and capped it off with the Big East tournament crown.
The Wildcats finished last season with a 32-4 record overall and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The team returns two starters from last season, including forward Mikal Bridges, who was picked for the All-Big East second team, and point guard Jalen Brunson, who was selected as the 2017-2018 Big East Preseason Player of the Year. Brunson's averages of 14.7 points and 4.1 assists led him to an All-Big East first team selection in 2016-2017.
Sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo, who averaged 8.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game on his way to making the Big East all-freshman team, is another returning player that will play a big factor for 'Nova. The Wildcats also add freshman forward Omari Spellman to the mix after he redshirted last season. Spellman was picked in the coaches' poll as the preseason Freshman of the Year.
Jay Wright's squad tips off the 2017-18 season on Nov. 10 against Columbia.