Brandon Jennings: Trailblazer or guinea pig?
Brandon Jennings’ decision to sign with a European club rather than go to college has been a hot topic in basketball circles, the same question being pondered over and over: Will high school stars follow in his footsteps, or will he become another cautionary tale for young basketball players eager to turn pro too soon?
[img_assist|nid=1532|title=Brandon Jennings|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=277]We will not know the answer to this question until his season in Rome is complete, but we can look at the pros and cons of his decision to try to formulate an answer.
First the pros, and yes, there are positives to his decision to play in Europe although many people do not want to see them. The obvious one that jumps out at you is the money. The New York Times recently reported that Jennings will earn about $600,000 US next season, endorsements not included. That is far more than the $0.00 US that all NCAA athletes will (legally) earn next year. And, for a family from Compton that has had their share of struggles, that is instant financial stability and relief that would not have been available for at least another year.
Furthermore, as a professional, he will not be involved in any scandals or NCAA investigations. The temptation to accept gifts and money is a serious problem with college athletes and could have serious repercussions, but Jennings will not have to worry about any of that.
From a basketball point-of-view, Jennings has the opportunity to take his game to the next level by playing against professionals next year. “I just think I would develop more if I went overseas and I would have played pro ball for a year,” Jennings said in an ESPN report in June. Playing in Europe against smarter, stronger, and more experienced players will be a huge advantage for Jennings when he comes to the NBA. He is already at the NBA level in terms of athleticism, so he can take this opportunity to fine-tune his game against players who know the game better than younger, inexperienced college athletes.
As a professional in Europe, basketball will be his job. Student athletes have other responsibilities besides basketball. Classes and homework can be a lot for some kids in addition to the rigors of playing for a Division 1 program, but Jennings will not have to worry about that stuff. He will be able to focus solely on basketball.
He will also have the opportunity to develop off the court. There will not be a team of coaches, administrators, and professors to tell him what to do and when to do it. His decision to play in Europe has thrust him into adulthood, and he will be forced to mature, whereas college grants kids the opportunity to stay just that: kids. However, he will have people around him to ease his transition. His coach speaks English, and he’ll have American teammates such as Allan Ray (Villanova), David Hawkins (Temple), and Ibrahim Jaaber (Penn) to mentor him. If he is able to develop as a person and professional off the court, NBA teams will not have to worry about life adjustment and maturity issues when considering him in the draft.
With all that said, don’t think that Europe will just be a yearlong vacation for Jennings; just as it is with taking any risk, there is potential reward and potential consequences.
The buyout is a burden on any NBA team that drafts an international prospect, and now it is something that must be dealt with by the team that selects Brandon Jennings. The New York Times reported that his contract with Virtus Roma is a three-year deal. Jennings has stated that he only intends to play in Europe for one year, so whichever team drafts him in 2009 will have to buy him out. NBA teams have had trouble negotiating with international clubs in the past, and the potential of similar problems with Jennings could turn some teams off.
From a basketball point-of-view, he might struggle. Scouting reports (this one included) have noted that his biggest weaknesses are lack of strength and an inconsistent jump shot, two things that are very important in the European game. The guards in Europe are bigger, so he will struggle matching up unless he puts on weight in a hurry. And a consistent jump shot is vital in Europe; that’s why the United States has struggled in international play since 2004. These pros could expose limitations in his game that college players could not. If he plays bad, he will sit, and his stock will slip. And even if he excels, questions will still arise about his NBA readiness. Scouts will have to assess his game against the typically slower, more grounded European players. After all, NBA rejects Trajan Langdon and Michael Wright are very good players in Europe.
I wrote above that his experience in Europe will be beneficial to him off the court if he can handle living on his own, if he can gain maturity. Those are big IFS. If he can, it’s great for him and great for the NBA team that drafts him. But what if he can’t? What if he’s not ready for adulthood just yet? What if the added difficulty of cultural differences makes the real world an even bigger obstacle for him? These are the questions that college is meant to answer. It’s not just to give students an education in the classroom; it’s to prepare kids for life. There is a good chance that Jennings is not prepared, and it could hurt him in a big way. Just look at Sebastian Telfair.
[img_assist|nid=1533|title=Brandon Jennings|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=473] Telfair is more relevant to this discussion than any player who has bypassed college to turn pro. In high school games televised on ESPN, Telfair showed incredible talent, athleticism, hunger, and work ethic. Watching him beat Darius Washington on one ankle one night, then hit the game-winning jumper against Dwight Howard’s team another night led all of us to dub him the next great NBA point guard. Questionable jump shot aside, his game seemingly had no weaknesses. He made the leap, became a lottery pick, and has since become almost insignificant. He is currently a free agent after finishing this past season on his third team in four years.
The main reason for his inability to reach that projected superstardom: off-the-court trouble. He should have gone to Louisville and learned how to be a man (and shoot) under Rick Pitino. He is still young and has time to become the player people thought he could be, but he’s already lost four years, and his second NBA contract won’t be anywhere close to what he probably anticipated on draft day in 2004.
If Jennings’ Eurotrip is similar – he gets into trouble and shows an inability to conduct himself properly outside of basketball – he may be worse off than Telfair because at least Sebastian got that first guaranteed NBA contract. Worst-case scenario for Jennings: trouble off the court leads to poor play on it, NBA teams are scared off, and Jennings must stay in Europe where he just fades away. It’s possible.
After all of this, I still cannot give a cut-and-dry answer to the question of whether or not Jennings will be regarded as a trailblazer or a guinea pig. Will the best high school players bolt for Europe after getting their diplomas or will the flashy point guard from Compton become the next Lenny Cooke, just another example of wasted potential and poor decision-making? I don’t know.
What I do know is this: he will not be the last player to go to Europe from high school. The fact is that, whether or not he succeeds (and I really hope that he does), there are circumstances that make this his only option, and there will be other kids who feel the same way.
When the NBA created a minimum age requirement, they showed complete disregard for two important reasons for why kids need the opportunity to go straight to the League from high school, two reasons that are both relevant to Brandon Jennings’ situation.
Some people simply aren’t meant to go to college. Many will disagree with that statement, but it’s true. Many times in today’s world, kids who don’t go to college are labeled as unintelligent or lazy, but that’s not always the case. Some people struggle with standardized tests, and some people cannot handle the college workload. That doesn’t make them stupid. After all, which sounds smarter to you? Sitting out a year while trying to get eligible for school, and then spending a year in college before becoming eligible for the NBA; going to the D-League and making peanuts while guys are gunning for you to raise their stock as they fight for their NBA lives; or taking the opportunity to make six figures and become eligible for the NBA draft while gaining a year of professional experience at the highest level in Italy? You don’t need a 1500 on the SATs to do that math.
Some families suffer through poverty and tragedy, and basketball is a way out. Telfair’s main motivation to make the jump was to get his family out of Coney Island, and although I believe he should have gone to college to help his game and maturity, I could never understand what he has gone through in his life and how important that money was to his family. Jennings has had a rough life as well, fatherless since eight years old. His mother has worked hard to raise him and his younger brother (a bigtime prospect in his own right), and this could be one of the main reasons why he took the money in Europe. The option of the NBA was taken away from him and players like him, so playing professionally overseas is the only option for players who want to give their families immediate financial stability.
All in all, it doesn’t seem like Jennings’ move will cause a mass exodus of high school basketball players to Europe upon graduation. However, for players that, for whatever reason, rule college out as a viable option, he has blazed a trail. Regardless of what happens, he should receive the blessing of the basketball world, and those who ridicule and look down upon him need to open their minds and realize that not everyone is meant to follow the same path.
This is indeed a nice article, but putting Trajan Langdon and Michael Wright on the same level would be like stating that Kobe Bryant and Kasib Powell are both very good players in the USA (ok, I'm exaggerating a little bit, but I think it pictures the point I want to get across).
This article is really good. I read the majority of the nbadraft.net articles and this has been one of the best to date. I think because of Jennings quickness (which allows him to get anywhere on the court), he we be able to succeed in europe. I think he has people around him who will not allow him to become the next Lenny Cooke. By the way, is that guy still even alive?
I definitely commend Jennings for his bold decision, but a pro team's goal is to win and make money first and foremost, with player development taking a back seat. If Jennings isn't playing up to par, he will sit on the bench and this could seriously hurt his draft stock. Then again, Mustafa Shakur's draft stack was hurt pretty bad in college, so it's no guarantee college would have saved him from the same fate. Best of luck to Jennings
When it comes to the big three of sports, Goodell, Selig, and Stern, I've got to say for the most part Stern's brought this league above the rest with everything thats gone around it. Yet when he first instilled the nba age limit, I laughed and cried at how many people were truly affected by this. You simply can't deny these players from making millions when on the same spectrum if war occured in this country and another draft were instilled they'd all be eligable. Yet when this rule was instilled, Stern had to ask himself how much college basketball would be affected by having the likes of players such as Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James play a minimal one year in college. Now I truly believe that their are a good handful of nba potential prospects that are ready to make the jump on athletics alone. So why should we stop them from achieving their dreams? We all saw how much wonders College did for Feliepe Lopez who in my mind failed far worse then anyone wants to give Lenny Cooke credit for. In Cookes case the system boned him, no pun intended. Dude's got game yet its not his fault he's been labled the biggest high school bust of all time. On numbers alone Lenny Cooke should have been a lottery pick of his respective draft class. Yet when every single last nba franchise passed on him i'm sure most of you on here like myself were baffled. Matury doesnt make the game, but experiance does. Some of the most clean cut "white" players in the league never make it. Take Luke Jackson for example, a guy who had first one talet, lottery character and possibly the best jump shot out of his class. Yet why didn't he make it like a Kyle Korver for example? I think it's fear, and then secondly the NBA attempting to establish itself as a non "thuggish" league. When the Blazers traded Rasheed Wallace and when the Pistons ultmatly acquired his "antics and assets," they realized what they were getting into. Yet I think theirs few players in the league that give everything on the court like he doesand because of it, along with a cast full of stoways the Pistons hoisted an NBA Championship. As Charles Barkley once said "I'm not a role model, I get paid to reak havoc on the basketball court." Tenacity and toughness make this game what it is, not polish and poise. In Jennings case however, I truly hope he doesn't end up as the next Sebastian Telfair or Omar Cook, but I condone what he's doing to the fullest. If A guy can play in the nba, it's executives will make it possible contract or not. It's all about building the best 15 man roster than you yourself truly believe can lead you to the promised land. Because of Jennings and all of the one-and-done players in college basketball a new limit will be enstore for all of us to complain about. Within the next ten years I believe the limit will either be risen to 20, with two years of college experiance or lowered once again back down to the orginal limit of 18 and no college experiance. It's not the GM's, or the Coach's fault for drafting a player who turns out to be a bust, but 9/10 times "except in Elgian Baylors case," they will be blamed for it. We live in a dangerous world where potential is the most promising and posioning potion within the league. Something needs to be done soon to fix all of this, or the NBA's Draft Lottery will be no better than College Footballs BCS.
I see nothing wrong with this decision at all. If Brandon Jennings can provide for his family by skipping College then let him. I don't see nothing wrong with that at all. Maybe David Stern does, but hey the guy has a Napoleon complex. I mean come on isn't that what 95 percent of the country want to do when they go to school. Hoping they land a high paying job there good at. The "one and done rule" is stupid. What Stern needs to do is actually have a minor league system. That way players like Lenny Cooke or Shuan Livingston. Don't have to be thrown to the wolves when they begin there careers. And put more rounds in the draft.
Teammates Malik Hairston and Maarty Luenen unexpectedly heard their names called but Taylor didn’t.
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Taylor was arguably Oregon’s best player last season, but his 6-foot-4 frame makes him a undersized at the next level. Nonetheless, his scoring ability, length and athleticism give him a chance to make in in the league.
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Cook Because of Jennings and all of the one-and-done players kurye in &$#%#&@!o
That doesn’t make them stupid. After all, which sounds smarter to you? Sitting out a year while trying to get eligible for school, and then spending a year in college before becoming eligible for the NBA; Thank you I love you NBA
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