June 30, 2008

Monday Tip: What should Jennings do?

The top high school players in the nation used to face the question of whether to go to college or make the jump to the NBA. The NBA's minimum-age requirement put an end to that.

But there soon could be a new choice: Go to college or take your game to Europe.

Arizona signee Brandon Jennings, 18, recently began entertaining the idea of playing professionally in Europe next season while waiting to find if he scored high enough on the SAT to become eligible for college next season.

Jennings, a 6-foot point guard who is the No. 4 prospect in the 2008 class, was supposed to get his test results Thursday. However, his attorney told the Tucson (Ariz.) Citizen they have yet to arrive. Jennings continues to consider a possible move overseas, which raises some interesting questions.

Would playing in Europe better prepare Jennings for the NBA? Could Jennings raise his stock more by proving himself against other pros? He's already planning to enter the 2009 draft.

Or is college long the NBA's minor-league system for Americans a better learning ground? At Arizona, Jennings would play for one of the nation's most prestigious programs under Lute Olson, a Hall of Fame coach.

Rivals.com college basketball editor Bob McClellan and Andrew Skwara have differing opinions on the subject and debate why Jennings should either go to Arizona or to Europe.


If Jennings doesn't earn his eligibility, I could see Europe as a viable option. You don't want to spend a year without scouts and the people who matter seeing you play. But that should be a last resort.

Regardless of where he plays overseas, Jennings would face a huge transition. The international game is far different from what Americans are used to. Just look at how our teams have fared in recent international tournaments. The American team has LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and still is far from a lock to win the Olympics this year. There also are language barriers, lifestyle changes and getting used to living 10,000 miles away from home in a strange place. Men in their 20s with four years of college experience have a tough time with it. How do you think an 18-year-old will handle it?

College is the much safer route. If Jennings proves himself in the Pac-10, he will be a first-round lock. Arizona has sent several guards to the NBA, including lottery picks Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Damon Stoudamire and, most recently, Jerryd Bayless - who spent one season in Tucson. Jennings may be more talented than any of those guys.

There's also the added bonus of playing for a good team. Forward Chase Budinger, who probably would have been a first-round pick, chose to pull out of the draft and stay at Arizona. The Wildcats also return Jordan Hill, one of the nation's most-improved big men last season, and add 7-foot center Jeff Withey, a four-star recruit.


I'm tired of the charade the NCAA and the NBA put over on the basketball-loving public. Why should a kid who has no desire to go to college have to spend a year occupying a scholarship?

If Jennings goes overseas, it will force the NBA to look at its age restrictions. As fun as it is to get one year of college ball from everyone, there's just no rhyme or reason to it.

Jennings can flat out fly with the ball, create, penetrate. You know that old line about telling kids not to play in traffic? Jennings is at his best negotiating through traffic. He's a pinball bouncing off bumpers, and next thing you know, the ball is dropping through the net.

How will his game fit in Europe? I have no idea. I can't imagine he would do anything to diminish his draft stock so much that he would slip out of the lottery. Jennings is the No. 2 point guard in the class of 2008. The No. 2 point guard in 2007 was O.J. Mayo, a lottery pick. The No. 2 point man in 2006 was Ty Lawson, who I believe would have been a first-round pick this year but has decided to return for his junior year at North Carolina in hopes of moving into the lottery. The No. 2 point guard in 2004 was Sebastian Telfair, a lottery pick.

If Jennings wants to go to Europe and make some bank instead of going to Arizona, I say why not?

CAST YOUR VOTE: Should Brandon Jennings go to college or play overseas?

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.
Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.

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