Monday, November 16, 2009

Above the Rim: Brandon Jennings Emerges

After spending last season in Europe instead of at the University of Arizona, Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings was an unknown coming into the NBA draft. Reports on him were good, but a lot of teams seemed uncertain of what effect playing in Europe straight out of high school would have on him. After seven games, Jennings is averaging 25.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game. It seems that the move across the pond worked pretty well. It will be interesting to see if more prep stars follow in his footsteps and try to emulate Jennings quick start.

So far this season, Jennings has had games of 24, 25, 32, and, recently, a Bucks’ rookie record 55 point game. He has also had two 9 assist games. Shooting wise, he is hitting 49.6% from the floor and 56.7% from three point range while connecting on 82.8% of his free throws. Those percentages are among the best of any player across the board in the NBA. Is this the kind of debut we can expect from prep stars that choose to go overseas rather than attending college?

We have to remember that Jennings was slated to play for Lute Olsen at Arizona, so he was already a top prep player and not a normal high school recruit. Still, the move to Europe worried a few NBA general managers as he was drafted tenth overall, behind point guards Ricky Rubio (5th), Jonny Flynn (6th), and Stephen Curry (7th). Flynn was a freshman, graduating from high school the same year as Jennings, and Rubio was another relative unknown coming over from Europe. NBA execs felt that Flynn and Rubio, both taken by the Timberwolves, were better and more of a sure thing than Jennings. Meanwhile, while Jennings is becoming a star in Milwaukee as one of the best rookie point guards in the last 20 years, Rubio is still in Spain and Flynn is averaging 14.2 points and 3.3 assists in Minnesota. However, Flynn is also averaging 3.6 turnovers per game (.92 assists per turnover) and only shooting 26.9% from three point range for the 1-10 T’wolves while Jennings is averaging 3.4 turnovers (1.5 assists per turnover) for the 5-2 first place Bucks.

While Jennings has made Europe a viable option in lieu of college for prep stars, high school stars will need to think long about their decision before making the jump. Jennings had the skill set and the confident personality to pull it off. Most high school basketball players are not at that stage of their basketball careers or psyches to make such a move successful.

In the meantime, Jennings is the early favorite for Rookie of the Year, but we will see how viable the move will be for other players. This could be a dangerous precedent for high school players with visions of the NBA in their heads.

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Rodney Purvis said...

Jennings has pretty much staked his claim to ROY already and should have a good chance to make the All-Star team.