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Lincolnshire-02/08/13, Fri./Stevenson High School #15 Jalen Brunson, of Stevenson with the shot vs. Lake Forest. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media
Friday night, Stevenson beat Lake Forest 59-50 in a rather mundane game in the North Suburban Conference Lake Division.
Watching the unmemorable game, it would be impossible to know just how much Stevenson guard Jalen Brunson and Lake Forest forward Evan Boudreaux have in common. For one, Brunson is a 6-foot-2 do-everything point man. A rare sophomore who plays like a senior, Brunson can score — he finished with 24 points against the Scouts — but is instinctively unselfish.
Boudreaux is a 6-foot-7 brute, a physical post presence — a quarterback until he gave up football for basketball before his sophomore year — he is also the team’s second-best three-point shooter.
Although their differences stand out at first glance, it’s their similarities that have them linked together now, and likely, for the next two years.
“It’s kind of like being the hungry kid in the candy store that just got your allowance. What do you do?” said Josh Foster, coach of Next Level Performance, an AAU team that both Brunson and Boudreaux play for. “Anything you draw up, as a coach, they will make you look good. They’ve been that way since I’ve coached them.”
That began in the summer of 2011, before both players enrolled in high school. Brunson joined Boudreaux on Team NLP after moving from Virginia. Both distinguished themselves on the AAU circuit and at the high school level. As freshman, Brunson was a Pioneer Press All-Area selection. Boudreaux was an all-conference pick.
Last summer, they roomed together while traveling to AAU tournaments in Indiana, Arkansas and Florida. It was on the road where they began to develop a friendship. As colleges started to show interest — Boudreaux was offered scholarships by Northwestern and Boston College before his sophomore season, and Brunson received offers from SMU, Xavier and Purdue — they bonded over the shared frenzy coaches were showing over their respective basketball talents.
“We both have the same pressures on us in some sense,” Boudreaux said. “We can really talk to one another about what’s going on.”
Brunson added: “I can go to him and say, ‘What would you do in this situation?’ I pick him up, he picks me up. With that relationship, we can go very far and stay in contact for the rest of our lives.”
Both admit college coaches have approached with the idea of bringing them in to play together. It’s a scenario that Foster said makes sense.
“If they can get a point guard who can stretch the floor and a big guy who can play more than one position, you can see how they would fit together on the court,” Foster said. “They are drooling over them.”
Boudreaux added: “One school said, ‘We’d like to get Jalen up here.’ They want me to help get him. We have talked about that. It would be great.”
Neither player is in a hurry to make that decision. Friday night, they were just two basketball players trying to help their high school teams win an important game. Late in the fourth quarter, with the game in hand for Stevenson, Brunson sprinted in for what appeared to be an easy layup. Behind him trailed Boudreaux, who caught up. Brunson stopped and pulled up.
“When we play one-on-one, he’s always trying to (block) me, so that’s a trick I know,” Brunson said. “He has a height advantage, so I shoot over the top of him.”
Brunson made the basket. It was the perfect snapshot of two opposites, bound into friendship by basketball, competing for their high schools and for futures that might intersect.