Jordan Bruner one of Yale’s most highly-touted recruits ever
NEW HAVEN >> More and more, top-rated players are opting to take their talents to the Ivy League over higher-profile basketball programs.
Over at Harvard, coach Tommy Amaker welcomes a top-20 recruiting class headed by Chris Lewis, a four-star recruit who chose the Crimson over his home state school, Georgia, among many others.
At Yale, head man James Jones is excited about a crop of freshmen, all of whom could contribute this season. There’s Austin Williams, a 6-foot-9 power forward from Florida; Eric Monroe, a heady point guard from San Diego; and Miye Oni, a 6-6 forward from southern California who was “probably the best player I’ve ever gone to watch play over the summer,” according to Jones.
Then there’s Jordan Bruner, who may stand head and shoulders above them all.
A lengthy, 6-foot-9 forward from Columbia, South Carolina, Bruner boasts a high basketball IQ and explosive athleticism - the latter evident on Saturday night, when he won the dunk contest at Yale’s season-opening “Blue Madness” festivities.
“He’s just a different kind of athlete - long, athletic,” said Jones. “He’s somebody that I think is gonna be pretty good here. I’m not certain how long it’s gonna take him to be a very good player in our league, but I certainly think he has the potential to be very good.”
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Bruner, a national top-100 recruit who was rated as one of the top three Class of 2016 recruits in South Carolina, is one of the most highly-touted incoming freshmen in Yale basketball history. He’s certainly among the most decorated in Jones’ 18 seasons at the helm — perhaps rivaled only by Edwin Draughan, a top-100 recruit out of Mayfair High in California who starred at Yale for four years (2001-05) before embarking on a long pro career overseas.
Bruner chose Yale over home-state schools Clemson and South Carolina, which wasn’t easy. His sister Ashley played at South Carolina before graduating in 2013, while Clemson had been recruiting him longer than any other school and offered him while he was a sophomore at Spring Valley High.
Ultimately, it came down to Clemson or Yale — “probably the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life,” according to Bruner. A visit to Yale’s campus in September, 2015 helped him make his choice.
“It just came down to what I thought would be better all-around, and what my family thought would be better for me all-around,” Bruner said. “And this is the decision we came up with.”
He made his commitment to Yale last November, and while Clemson coach Brad Brownell seemed upset with the decision, as Bruner told his hometown paper, Bruner has no regrets.
“Because it’s done now,” he noted. “I just enjoy the decision I made, and I’m happy about where I’m at. I really don’t think about it. A lot of kids talk about how they might have wished they’d gone here, what it would’ve been like. But the grass is always greener on the other side. I don’t really think about the pro’s and con’s, because I’m already here. There’s no point in thinking about the past.”
Indeed, the present and future are very exciting for Yale, in large part because of Bruner. On the heels of an Ivy League title and first trip to the NCAA tourney in 54 years, along with their first win in the Big Dance in program history, the Bulldogs are ready to reload. Sure, they lose two-time Ivy player of the year Justin Sears and fellow stalwart Brandon Sherrod to graduation. But Makai Mason, who emerged as a star in Yale’s NCAA tourney win over Baylor, is back and is a frontrunner for the league’s player of the year. Anthony Dallier and Sam Downey are among the key reserves from last year’s team who return, along with a talented group of sophomores who got their feet wet a year ago.
And, of course, a strong group of freshmen, headed by Jordan Bruner.
“He’s a really smart player,” Mason, a junior, said of Bruner. “He can see the floor really well, his passing ability is up there. He’s really athletic, too. He can change shots, which is gonna be big for us, since we lose a lot of shot-blocking presence from last year. And he can really shoot the 3, too.
“He’s pretty much all-around. He can play.”