With the 2019 recruiting class coming to a close, it’s time to shift our focus to the next crop of prospects that could be suiting up in Champaign. There will be two areas of focus for the 2020 class: guards and wings. And at the top of that list, you’ll find Jalen Bridges.
A 6-foot-6, 175-pound wing out of Fairmont, West Virginia, Bridges wrestled with the decision of classifying in the 2019 class, but opted to do a prep year at Scotland Campus in Pennsylvania.
247Sports lists him as a four-star product and the No. 107 player in the class. He currently holds offers from West Virginia, Xavier, Penn State, TCU and the Illini, among others.
With Kipper Nichols graduating next season, the only wings left on the roster for 2020-21 are Tevian Jones and Alan Griffin, a pair of soon-to-be sophomores that possess a boat load of potential. However, neither has proved himself at the next level and the position lacks depth overall.
In this highlight tape from last month’s Adidas Gauntlet in Indianapolis, a few things stand out about Bridges’ game. The first, he’s got a beautiful stroke from deep. It’s a bit unorthodox at times, but he has a quick release that forces opposing defenders to close out quickly and also makes them susceptible to the dribble-drive.
Another unique thing about Bridges’ form is that he doesn’t dip the basketball. When you look at the best shooters across every level, you’ll notice almost every single one dips the ball below their waist on the catch. There are a few exceptions and some exaggerate it more than others, but generally speaking, almost every good shooter you come across will bring the ball below their waist at the catch.
Bridges is also a more than capable ball-handler and can break down defenders off the bounce (see the spin-back at 1:00). Neither Griffin nor Jones impressed off the dribble last season, so adding a wing who can get to the rim will add a much-needed element to the offense.
What this highlight tape doesn’t showcase is Bridges’ athleticism. He can finish above the rim in traffic and uses his length on the defensive end as well. He averaged over 22 points, 6.3 rebounds, two blocks, 1.9 steals, and 1.8 assists per game last season and should only improve on these marks with another year to get ready before the college level.
Expect Brad Underwood to be a major player in the Jalen Bridges sweepstakes over the course of the next year.
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