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Yale men’s basketball forward Jordan Bruner ’20 is off to Alabama.

The senior is set to graduate — virtually — next month, and after a successful career in New Haven, Bruner will bring his talent to the SEC next year. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 10.9 points and 9.2 rebounds a game this past season, blocking 48 shots along the way. His 3.6 assists per game ranked fourth in the Ancient Eight. He chose Alabama and head coach Nate Oats over Baylor and Maryland, which also made his final list.

Surgery on a torn meniscus he suffered during a preseason scrimmage against Boston University forced him to sit out sophomore year, leaving him with an extra year of immediate eligibility that Ivy League rules do not permit him to use as a graduate student in the Ancient Eight.

“All three of my remaining schools are great situations,” Bruner said in an announcement video on Instagram. “But due to God’s vision, I’ll be returning to college and joining Coach Oats at the University of Alabama with the goal of winning a national championship.”

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 10.9 points and 9.2 rebounds a game this past season, blocking 48 shots along the way. (muscosportsphotos.com)

Bruner earned a spot on the All-Ivy first team last month and was also one of ten Yale winter athletes named to the Academic All-Ivy list on Thursday. An African American studies major at Yale, he said he is currently unsure of what graduate degree he will pursue at Alabama. 

For Alabama and Oats, Bruner presents an exciting frontcourt addition for a team that has gathered several key commitments over the past two weeks. Five-star guard Josh Primo, small forward Darius Miles and junior college guard Keon Ellis helped Alabama’s 2020 recruiting class jump to 15th-best in 247Sports’s latest rankings.

Bruner said a couple future teammates have reached out, and he is still getting in touch with others who will suit up with him next season.

“I’m kind of level-headed,” he said Friday night after the immediate buzz following his decision had dissipated. “Excited is something that’s hard for me to get to, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

The Yale big man will offer the Crimson Tide a unique skill set, pairing his prowess on the defensive glass with the ability to see the floor, lead the fast break and knock down shots from beyond the arc. A starter in his junior and senior years, he helped the Elis to consecutive Ivy League titles in 2019 and 2020.

“I’m thankful to Yale basketball and coach [James] Jones for allowing me to come in and be myself … I have no doubt we would have shocked a lot of people in this year’s tournament, but you guys are all two-time champs. Make it three next year.”

Jordan Bruner ’20

Over his career as a Bulldog, Bruner put his toolkit on display everywhere, from Yale’s own John J. Lee Amphitheater to games on the road in China, California, Miami, Memphis, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma and more. Born in Oklahoma City, he moved to South Carolina at the age of 11.

“I’m thankful to Yale basketball and coach [James] Jones for allowing me to come in and be myself,” Bruner said in his announcement video. “I appreciate that. Thank you to my coaches and teammates for believing in me too … I have no doubt we would have shocked a lot of people in this year’s tournament, but you guys are all two-time champs. Make it three next year.”

After anticipation built throughout the week, Alabama fans reacted with joy on Twitter after Bruner’s decision Friday, a day some had already christened “Jordan Bruner Day.” Excitement grew among Crimson Tide supporters when Oats retweeted a graphic from Bruner’s mother celebrating his Academic All-Ivy selection on Thursday, adding to the speculation around his final decision.

“If we land Jordan Bruner tomorrow, I’ll just go ahead and skip football season and head straight to basketball,” fan Zachary Ross wrote on Twitter Thursday night.

Bruner earned a spot on the All-Ivy first team last month and was also one of ten Yale winter athletes named to the Academic All-Ivy list on Thursday. (Lukas Flippo)

With the Friday afternoon announcement, Bruner became the most recent Ivy League senior to announce his commitment to a Power Five conference as a graduate transfer. Earlier Friday, Columbia guard Mike Smith committed to Michigan, while Harvard guard Bryce Aiken committed to Seton Hall on Thursday. Columbia forward Patrick Tapé is off to Duke, and Harvard forward Seth Towns is set to join Ohio State next season.

Late last month, Bruner told the News a little over 50 schools originally contacted him, including about 25 within his first three hours in the transfer portal on March 18. About a week and a half later, he named his final six, cutting the list to Alabama, Arkansas, Baylor, Gonzaga, Louisville and Maryland.

Before he even entered the portal, Bruner announced he was declaring for the NBA Draft, publicizing the decision less than 24 hours after the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament. But given the disruption COVID-19 has caused to the pre-draft process and an Alabama program he looks forward to joining, Bruner told the News he is done exploring his NBA options this spring.

“Right now there is no pre-draft process,” he said. “There’s no workouts. There’s no such thing as testing the waters if you already know what your spot is. Those guys that are testing the waters, they’re just trying to figure out where they would go or if they would get picked up or not, but I already have a good feel for what my case would be.”

Bruner ranks fifth all-time at Yale with 101 blocked shots.

Update, April 10, 9:56 p.m.: This article has been updated with quotes from Bruner’s Friday night interview with the News.

William McCormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu