Former Illinois Prep Athletes and their NBA Performances- December 21- Strus Gets First NBA Start

Tuesday evening, six former Illinois prep athletes saw minutes in various NBA games. Below I look into and share each of their NBA performances from December 21.

Best of the Day: Jalen Brunson

  • Jalen Brunson (Stevenson/Dallas Mavericks)- 40 minutes, a game-high 28 points, 10/18 FG, 3/8 3PT, 5/8 FT, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, a team-high one block (tied with 2 others), 2 turnovers, and +9 in a 114-102 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The rest of the performances of the day:

  • Sterling Brown (Proviso East/Dallas Mavericks)- 33 minutes, 12 points, 5/8 FG, 2/4 3PT, 2 offensive rebounds, a team-high 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and +19 in a 114-102 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. This is Brown’s first double-double since March 26, 2021. That one also was against the Timberwolves. Two differences: new team (not on the Houston Rockets) and his team wins (T’wolves defeat Rockets 107-101 that day).
  • Max Strus (Stagg/Miami Heat)- 36 minutes, 18 points, 7/15 FG, 4/12 3PT, 2 offensive rebounds, 7 total rebounds, 4 assists, and +6 in a 125-96 win over the Indiana Pacers. This was Strus’ first NBA career start. His seven rebounds ties a career-high and his four assists sets a new career-high.

Many teams around the league have had to shake up their game plans due to injuries and various players in the league’s COVID protocols. Miami Heat is no different. Tuesday, the Erik Spoelstra brought Stagg’s Max Strus into the team’s starting lineup for the first time. Forward P.J. Tucker was out so Strus was tasked to step in and be a forward. Strus was made known that morning during the pregame shoot-around at practice of his opportunity to start the game.

For those that follow Strus or know him personally, he’s always been a “we” guy and does things for the team first. Personal stats are nice but the team goals are more important to Strus. But don’t think every now and then, a team players like Max enjoys and gets excited for a major career moment.

It’s pretty special to be honest. I don’t usually get caught up on things like that but after going through such a long recovery process with the ACL, you learn to embrace and cherish moments like these.

Heat G/F Max Strus on his first NBA start night coming on the anniversary of his tragic 2019 injury.

Post-Thanksgiving (last 13 games), Strus is averaging 13.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 24.3 minutes (mostly off the bench). He is shooting 48 percent from the field, 41.3 percent from beyond the arc, and 82.6 from the free-throw line during that stretch.

  • Robert Covington (Proviso West/Portland Trail Blazers)- 31 minutes, 7 points, 3/7 FG, 1/5 3PT, a team-high 3 offensive rebounds, 5 total rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, a game-high one block (tied with several others), a turnover, and -9 in a 111-97 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
  • JaVale McGee (Hales Franciscan/Phoenix Suns)- 16 minutes, 10 points, 5/7 FG, a game-high 3 offensive rebounds, 10 total rebounds, a block, a turnover, and +3 in a 108-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. This was McGee’s sixth double-double of the season (30 games played). He has just one all of last season (46 games played).
  • Talen Horton-Tucker (Simeon/Los Angeles Lakers)- 31 minutes, 3 points 1/13 FG, 0/8 3PT, 1/2 FT, 2 rebounds, an assist, and -18 in a 108-90 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

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