Jalen Brunson wins skills contest in Day 1 of McDonald’s All-American action

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Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson is one of the most skilled guards the Chicago area has ever produced. His work ethic is well documented. So he wasn’t all that worried about the specific challenges the Powerade Jam Fest skills contest presented Monday at the University of Chicago’s Gerald Ratner Athletics Center.

“I just signed up and figured I’d have some fun with it,” Brunson said before the event. “I’m not even sure what the skills contest involves, just going to go out there and give it a shot.”

Brunson won the competition. He completed the course, made up of passing, dribbling and shooting challenges, in :29.8 — the best time in the preliminary round. He won the finals with a time of :30.6.

“I saw the clock when I was going through the dribbling. Noticed that I had plenty of time so I was able to slow down and get it right,” Brunson said.

The Jam Fest is the first public competition for McDonald’s All-Americans every year. The all-star game is Wednesday at the United Center.

Brunson also advanced to the finals of the three-point contest. He tied two other shooters with 20 points in the preliminary rounds. He also scored 20 in the finals, good enough for second place behind Duke recruit Luke Kennard, a 6-5 guard from Franklin, Ohio.

“The goal is to win as much as I can,” Brunson said. “After the skills contest I started to get really confident, maybe overconfident.”

Dwayne Bacon, a Florida State recruit, won the dunk contest. He leaped over former NBA player Jalen Rose in his winning slam.

Brunson practiced with his West Team on Monday morning. Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose watched with mixed emotions.

“It’s amazing,” Ambrose said. “Watching one of your players out there playing against that level of talent and succeeding and excelling. It’s also very bittersweet. I’ve had some emotions the past week, dealing with the fact that he’s gone now.

Simeon coach Robert Smith is coaching the West. The Wolverines and Stevenson had a heated rivalry over the past few seasons, but that is already in the past.

“I talked to [Smith] a little bit before practice,” Ambrose said. “I told him to yell at Jalen, really press him on things, Jalen wants that. I’m just a proud papa watching him flourish out there.”

Smith said Malik Newman, a 6-3 guard from Jackson, Mississippi, and Brandon Ingram, a 6-8 forward from Kinston, North Carolina, were the two best players on his squad. Ingram’s name was a hot topic among many of the scouts and recruiting analysts in attendance. He’s one of nine uncommitted players in the game, an unusually high number.

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