Brunk eager to make IU memories

Joey Brunk was like so many other Indiana fans on Dec. 10, 2011.

He was 14 years old at the time, a budding college basketball prospect coming of age in the Indianapolis area. And on that date, he was also witness to Hoosier history.

When Christian Watford hit “The Wat Shot” to beat Kentucky at the buzzer on that December evening, Brunk was among the 17,472 fans packed into Assembly Hall cheering along.

As a teen, Brunk watched plenty of Indiana games. Those IU teams with Cody Zeller, Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo? Brunk couldn’t get enough.

“I have a lot of those memories that I won’t ever forget,” he told The Herald-Times on Wednesday.

Now, as a graduate transfer set to join IU’s roster this summer, Brunk is eager to make new memories as a Hoosier himself.

The 6-foot-11 forward announced his commitment to Indiana on Tuesday afternoon, bolstering the Hoosiers’ frontcourt depth in the process. Brunk will be immediately eligible and have two seasons to play for the Hoosiers, giving IU the kind of tough and physical post presence it needs in the Big Ten.

Ole Miss, Florida, Northwestern and UCF were among the schools to pursue Brunk, a Southport product and former Indiana All-Star who averaged 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds as a part-time starter for Butler this past season.

Shortly after he announced on March 27 that he planned to leave the Bulldogs’ program, mutual interest with IU was quickly established. Brunk hosted Indiana coaches for an in-home visit, and also made an unofficial visit to Bloomington on April 1.

The process moved efficiently for both sides, and with Brunk’s commitment on Tuesday, Indiana checked off one of the boxes on its offseason to-do list.

“There were definitely a lot of schools to sort through and figure out,” Brunk said. “As much as I love Indiana, I definitely wanted to step back and make a rational decision and not let emotion come into play, just because it’s a big decision and my last run at it. But I obviously really, really loved Indiana and how I could see my relationship developing with Coach (Archie) Miller and (assistant coach Tom) Ostrom.”

Indiana still needs to add a shooter and find a true point guard to back up sophomore Rob Phinisee. Finding a player of Brunk’s size and mold was also a priority.

With Juwan Morgan graduating, and underclassmen Clifton Moore and Jake Forrester transferring, IU found itself in need of Big Ten-ready frontcourt depth.

De’Ron Davis projects as Indiana’s starting center next season but has yet to prove that’s a role he can master. Injuries have complicated Davis’ development during the past two seasons, so the former four-star recruit is no sure thing.

Redshirt sophomore Race Thompson will also have a chance to help Indiana in the post next season, and the Hoosiers are also adding a McDonald’s All-American in Center Grove standout Trayce Jackson-Davis.

But for as physical as Big Ten basketball plays, IU needed more than that group. Enter Brunk, who shot 62 percent inside the arc last season, drew 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes and ranked 11th in the Big East with an offensive rebounding rate of 9.0.

“I grew up watching the Big Ten, and I’ve always been a big fan of the conference,” Brunk said. “I think playing with my back to the basket, that’s something that you’ve got to have in the Big Ten. I think that’s something I’ll be able to do showcase and be able to do.

“… I do think people will be pleasantly surprised to see that I can do more than that, that I can stretch the floor a little, too. I’m a basketball player first, before anything. So yeah, I definitely want to play with my back to the basket, but I think I’m capable of doing a little bit more and showing my full range of abilities.”

Brunk is still familiarizing himself with his new team, though he already knows a few things. Having played against IU in last year’s Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis helps. In IU’s 71-68 buzzer-beating win on Dec. 15, Brunk played 23 efficient minutes off the bench, finishing with eight points on 4-for-8 shooting with five rebounds, two assist and only one foul.

That — a tough, high-motor player — is what Indiana can expect to add to its playing rotation.

Brunk has already talked to former IU walk-on Johnny Jager about playing under Miller. Brunk and Jager crossed paths in Conference Indiana, where Jager starred in Bloomington South’s backcourt and Brunk functioned as one of the top players for Southport.

Brunk has also spent recent weeks working out with Jackson-Davis, with whom he shares a skills trainer.

“We get together to do live reps against each other, because there’s not that many bigs to go against,” Brunk said.

After Brunk tweeted his decision to join Indiana’s program on Tuesday afternoon, he and his family and friends celebrated the Indianapolis product’s next step in his college career.

And for a longtime IU fan, it was certainly a decision worth toasting.

“They’ve been so stinkin’ happy. It’s been great,” Brunk said. “I have a very close family and a big friend group. They all were really happy to see me stay in Indiana.”

6 comments

  1. Welcome to IU Joey. I believe you made a great decision and hope that it turns out to be everything you expect it to be and more.

  2. Good decision by both parties + reinforces the focus to put a stranglehold on recruiting the state of Indiana Miller proclaimed he wanted to do when he took the job. It is an endless endeavor but Miller is exerting the effort for positive results.

    I understand there is a fairly high profile possible ’19’ recruit visiting Bloomington this week and/or weekend. I know not who.

    1. Former Virginia Tech recruit Anthony Harris, a 6-foot-3 point guard who is ranked somewhere between 65 and 75 nationally by most recruiting services is visiting Indiana this weekend. He’s also scheduled to visit North Carolina next week.

  3. Welcome to B-Town Joey! Work hard and earn some fans for life! We know that you can play. Have fun and just “win baby”!

  4. Kid seems solid. Dig the way he talks about the game. Hopefully he guards the rim like Melissa McCarthy guarding her free cupcakes.

    Do you think when Priller looks in the mirror, he wishes he saw Brunk looking back?

  5. We missed on Stevens, packed his Boston harbor trunk,
    Enter a decade of Crean, that was an unfortunate chunk.
    We found a ‘Big Handsome,’ a Sweet 16, his big slam dunk,
    Butler went Final Four deep, Hayward’s shot went kerplunk.
    Search on, the dark distant waters, for a whale of a tale,
    And some March Madness spunk.
    The winds call to canvas, waves crack upon the hull, hopes billow again,
    A roster, a crew, a mighty hold, she rocks with the waves in a longing storage trunk,
    For our whiskey now be barrels of Brunk!
    Set sail for the ‘Land of Bountiful Banners,’ though many a ship has sunk,
    Salty days, salty dried meats, all I hope this old salt soon gets drunk!

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