Did your 2008 N.B.A. Draft predictions come true?
One kid you’ll definitely hear about next year is already making news today. He may become the first player to go directly from high school in America to the pros in Europe.
His name is Brandon Jennings:
You may have seen Bill Rhoden’s column about Jennings in the New York Times this week:
This is the latest — and most brilliant — plan yet to combat the three-tiered maneuver by the N.C.A.A., the N.B.A. and the players union to prevent talented high school players from going directly to the N.B.A.
The N.B.A. instituted an age limit of 19, and required that a player be at least a year removed from high school, as part of its collective bargaining agreement with the union. The N.C.A.A. didn’t protest, and why would it?
The coach receives adulation, the university receives tournament money, the nonrevenue sports receive funding. What does an elite player get? An “extra benefit” could land the program on probation and have the player declared ineligible. You can’t say the player receives a free education because he is leaving after a year.
So Jennings surveyed the landscape and concluded it may make more sense to play professional basketball in Europe than to play semipro N.C.A.A. basketball free.
“It’ll be a good thing for the kids and a bad thing for the college coaches,” he [Jennings] said.
I agree with Dan Wetzel, writing for Yahoo Sports:
… Jennings isn’t any other player. He looks at this entire charade for what it is, a system designed to help the NBA and the NCAA make money, but not necessarily provide much for guys such as him (a fit of worldly logic that ought to define his intelligence more accurately than the college boards).
As a result, he just might turn the thing on its ear. Even if he does academically qualify, he is strongly considering telling college hoops, “no thanks,” and either spending the year playing professionally in Europe or Israel, or signing with an agent and working out with personal trainers and coaches.
Jennings attended Dominguez H.S. in Compton, Ca. before transferring to Oak Hill. Recall that fellow lefty Tayshaun Prince was also a Dominguez grad (as was Prince’s high school teammate Tyson Chandler)
Today, everyone is waiting for Jennings’ test scores, yet some reports thought he would go to Europe regardless of the results.
Jennings also has some doubters, including Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News:
We could declare this grand plan to be full of more holes than Swiss cheese, but basketball’s not so big in Switzerland. So let’s say it stinks like a hunk of French Camembert left in the sun for three days.
It starts with the notion there would be a huge market for a player in Jennings’ circumstance. His stated intention is to be a part of the 2009 draft. So why would a European team want to make any sort of investment in him?
But what if the pompous-sounding DeCourcy and his agent source are wrong about Euro-owners’ interest? What if Jennings proves it’s worth it for owners to sign American high schoolers for a single season, even if just for attendance building, crowd-pleasing reasons?
Jennings, who is marketing savvy and has his own active online fan site, has already proven he’s a great self-promoter. The publicity he’s getting right now is as much about getting the attention of European basketball team owners as anything else.
It’s probably true that Jennings would be out of the public eye if he were in Europe. On the other hand, he’d get a cultural experience he’s not going to find in one year at Arizona or in the N.B.A. D-League.
To me, this story is interesting because of the possibilities.
Personally, I’d like to see him opt for Europe, just to start a trend so that young players have more viable options in the future.
Jennings could become a pioneer. He could make history now.