Thursday, July 17, 2008

When in Roma

One of the nation's best high school basketball players has signed a contract to play with a professional Italian team, making him the first American star to play overseas in attempt to circumvent the NBA's one-year-out-of-school rule.

Good luck with all of that, Brandon Jennings. Seriously.

This is a very, very risky venture, not only because of all the unknowns Jennings will face in his attempt to create a new option for prep ballers who don't want to spend a year on the campus of an American college.

Point guard is one of the hardest positions to master on the court, if not the hardest, on any level of basketball on any court. Even pick-up games can be won and lost based on the skill level of the respective point guards.
Well consider that Jennings will also be asked to play a much different brand of ball: figuring out his role in a motion-type of offense (a Euroleague staple); counterpunching much more complicated defenses than the ones he faced in high school; actually playing defense against much craftier - and talented - opponents; fitting into a locker room with older, experienced and tougher teammates; and not to mention facing the drastic cultural differences in Rome from, say, his hometown of Compton. (DraftExpress went through all the assorted challenges here.)

I'm rooting for B.J. to make it. Not only is Jennings challenging the ridiculous notion of jocks being forced to use college as a one-year, unpaid way station to the League, but he also rocks a mean flat top.
Thus, I hope B.J. conquers Rome like a modern-day Hannibal and returns home for the NBA riches he already deserves. He makes a much better story as a pioneer rather than as a martyr.
Also a link from ESPN on prep hoops: We ball in Houston. Ya heard?


Zen said...

BJ's success will not be solely based on his performance. I'm actually going to tell you that more important than his hoops will be the coverage he receives.

The kids that blow up through their one and done years in the NCAA do so because they capture the medias attention. Melo, D-Rose, Durant, etc. They become household names, so to say, because of their games AND THE MEDIA EXPOSURE.

Jennings is talented enough to play in the league and NBA scouts ALREADY know that. He'll learn much more about basketball in Europe than he would have in college, which is a plus. He'll have to mature much more than any college freshman basketball player ever would on campus.

There are going to be frustrations for him over there, fortunately he'll have his family with him. So long as he doesn't self destruct, lose his mind. He'll be okay.

The KEY will be the COVERAGE he gets. His success will also be revealed not by just his draft position but also by how many kids follow his footsteps.

LANCE STEPHENS(ON) will be the next kid that has to make that choice.

This is the ULTIMATE in Study Abroad for Basketball players.

Zen said...

Oh, and he's getting paid in EURO's. That's going to be much better than the worthless green backs he'd be getting from Wildcat boosters.

You also have to take into consideration that he may not have qualified for school here so he HAD to make this move. YTBD

blackink said...

I feel what you're saying, Zen. And agree with a lot of it - I should have mentioned the part about it being an uncertainty that he would have qualified to play at a major school.

But I'm not worried about B.J.'s exposure - I'll think he will get his fair share. It's whether or not he'll be able to showcase his game enough to merit consideration for the 1st-round of the NBA draft.

Had he gone off to Arizona and dominated the comp for a year (a fairly sure bet), B.J. would have been a lottery pick consideration.

But now who knows how much he'll play in the Euroleague? Who knows if his coach will trust him with the ball? Who knows if he can handle the rigors of being a professional in a different country? It's going to be a challenge.

All it takes is a year for someone's draft status to take a severe hit. I just hope B.J. can take the blows.

Stephen said...

Why not go over there and make some paper before you blow up in the league? Playing in the Euro league for a year is at least, if not more, competitive as the NCAA. It didn't hurt Gallinaro this past draft.....

Stephen said...

Just to add a little more to my previous...I think the bigger impact on college basketball will be when a kid that qualifies (Jennings is a non-qualifier bc of SAT/ACT) chooses to go play abroad for a year or two and make some bank before being eligible for the draft. What is to stop a high school sophomore or junior who has game from going to Italy to play for a few years and make some cake and then play in the league?

blackink said...

My issue is: will Jennings be able to blow up in the league if he doesn't get any run over there, or if he's exposed somehow.

If Jennings were 6-10, 240, then I'd have fewer reservations about the move. But he's a pg, and not a big one at that. It's a huge risk.

However, I'm all about going over to Italy, balling for a bit, making some money and getting some exposure to a different culture.

As for the high underclassman making a similar move, whoa ... that's positively revolutionary. Assuming the kid had the chops, it might not be a bad move. But a lot of things would need to be in place for all that to happen.

Zen said...

If Jennings was a second tier PG, I think not producing in Europe would be an issue.

What you're devaluing is that fact that NBA scouts have evaluated this kid and have a very good idea of where they would take him.

He's at an advantage if he doesn't play well in Europe because there are built in excuses. Kids lose value if they don't play well in the NCAA because there's no excuse not to.

Tony Parker didn't dominate in France, he was drafted because of his speed and ball handling. (He had and has no J.) The thing that would hurt Jennings is if he got hurt.

Honestly, he's got less to lose playing in Europe than he does playing in the NCAA.

blackink said...

I hope you're right, Zen. And there is a chance that, yes, because he's playing in Europe that scouts will give him the benefit of the doubt and still keep him high on their draft boards.

But it only takes a year for NBA front-office types to grow disenchanted with a prospect - look at Joakim Noah, DeAndre Jordan (whose slide I predicted) and Chris Taft.

Because this is such a unique circumstance and because of growing reticence to drafting European players, I'm hoping that Jennings doesn't get denied the cheese he should be getting right now.