Just a few days after an impressive 32 point, 9 assist performance against Chauncey Billups and the Nuggets, Brandon Jennings dropped an insane stat line. 55 points on 21/34 from the field (62%), 7/8 from 3pt range (88%), 5 rebounds and 5 assists with 4 turnovers. What makes his 55 point performance even more impressive is that he failed to score a point in the first quarter, went for 29 in the third, and most important of all, led his team to a victory.
Jennings’ difficult time in Europe has been well documented. From getting kicked out of practice for not working hard enough, to meager playing time and scoring output, many skeptics deemed his choice a failure very early on. However, Jennings apparently learned a great deal in his year abroad. While his flashy style and controversial public comments have painted one picture of Jennings, his actions and performance in the NBA have displayed something very different thus far.
When top scorer Michael Redd went down with yet another knee injury, many said “here we go again” for the woeful Bucks. However, Jennings apparently was not one of them. He has picked up the scoring load, shown poise and leadership, helping to guide his team to a 5-2 record with a 4 game win streak. He is also leading his team in points (25.6) and assists (5.1). Jennings is also adding over 4 rebounds a game, 1 steal and shooting nearly 50% from the floor and 57% on 3pt.
There is no question that we surely will see players choose the path of Brandon Jennings by going to Europe as opposed to their requisite year of college. There also certainly will be those who are not fit to make that jump. Hopefully we do not see a rash of “advisors” steering players who should be playing college basketball, towards the overseas payday for their own monetary gain; however, it may in fact be a good move for some players.
Maybe it takes a year of sitting on a bench in Europe, getting treated like any other professional player and having to work hard, rather than walking around a college campus like a celebrity for a year. Maybe it is too stressful for some to be labeled the next Jordan, Kobe, LeBron, etc. every night on ESPN during March Madness. Maybe, for some, this really is a successful path to choose.
While it is still too early to grade the Jennings experiment a complete success, I would venture to say that he is off to an exceptional start and proving a lot of doubters wrong. Somewhere Sonny Vaccaro is smiling.