Jennings Sets Precedent, Heading Overseas

Brandon Jennings overseasDarren recently penned an article titled, Brandon Jennings Is Done Before One that described the predicament 18-year-old Oak Hill graduate Brandon Jennings was faced with.  Jennings decision was then debated about Thursday on the Region Buzz radio show and has been a hot subject this week.

Brandon Jennings was the best high school prospect in the class of 2008. He was flirting with the idea of going professional after high school, only to hear the NBA once again strongly reinforce its one-year-out of high school requirement.  His dream of playing professional ball out of high school did not end as Jennings searched for another alternative: playing professionally overseas.  After weighing the two options for some time, Brandon Jennings has now decided to forgo a year at Arizona and play overseas, further enforcing Darren’s and many others point that the NBA age requirements should be lifted.

On Tuesday July 8th, Jennings released a statement through his attorney Jeff Valle regarding the issue.  Jennings said, “Over the course of the last two months I have consulted a number of people in basketball before coming to this decision.  I would like to thank the University of Arizona for their interest and support through this process.”

Valle went on to say that Jennings will not even wait to see his third SAT score, after his second test was questioned by the NCAA. The results from the third test are due later this week, but whatever the magic number is, he will not be playing basketball on this continent next season.

Jennings’s decision to play in Europe is a first amongst young potential NBA athletes. These athletes for the past three years have simply attended college for a year, met the NBA requirements and then ditched school for the pros.  As Darren pointed out, this is a benefit for the institutions as they get to feed off these players individual success and what they do for the schools programs.  The kids probably only attend class during the season and most don’t even care about their grades.  Why would they, if they go into college only planning to stay a year?  Some college coaches have commented that it hurts the institutions because the players only stay for a year, thus forcing the coach and the team to lose cohesiveness and rebuild each year. However, these one-and-dones can put a program on the map as well (Kansas State, USC, Ohio State).

On the other hand, playing one year in college could benefit the young talented players.  They would get a chance to be “the man” at any institution they chose for basically no cost (assuming they have the grades and SAT score).  They would also have the chance to be seen by a lot more NBA GMs and NBA scouts than they would overseas.  Not to mention the ability to get acquainted to the style of the international game versus the faster paced NBA that focuses more on individual play rather than the team. Staying in college could be a benefit to these players, as they get to build their stock for a year in front of an American audience.

This year’s draft was the first time we saw three freshmen get picked 1,2, and 3. Five out of the top seven chosen had only played college ball for one year.  A total of 12 freshmen got picked in day one, annihilating last years total of 8 as the most freshman taken in round one.  I think this is yet another reason for David Stern to change the minimum age requirement.

Look at the O.J. Mayo situation this year.  If the one-year rule were not instituted in the NBA he most likely would not have gone to college.  As it turns out, O.J. turns USC into a good team for one year, at the same time he “allegedly” violated NCAA rules by receiving anywhere from $30,000-100,000 from an associate of BDA.  Mayo switched agents several times and still has not had any sanctions placed on him. O.J.’s ordeal has made a mockery of the one-year-out-of high school requirement and only further strengthens the argument to drop the rule.

Many foreign drafted players (Fran Vasquez, Rudy Fernandez and Tiago Splitter) have even chosen to stay overseas after being drafted by NBA teams because of the high salaries and lack of regulations (age and salary) in foreign leagues.  NHL marvel Jaromir Jagr recently left the New York Rangers to sign a big contract in the Russian league.  Playing in high priced foreign leagues is starting to become a trend for many athletes in a variety of sports (Is Becky Hammon Russian?).

This is a trend that Brandon Jennings might have just set for many young ballers in the U.S.A.  He is the first player to officially play overseas instead of college.  Although I can see both sides of the debate, the underlying factor still comes down to the money.  The NBA is a business just like the NCAA is, and both are looking to benefit off of these athletes.  They claim to be “educating student athletes” but that doesn’t appear to be happening.  The colleges are benefiting immensely from these one and done players at the expense of these athletes.  It has now come to the point that an amazingly talented point guard like Brandon Jennings is headed overseas (Check out this youtube video). Sonny Vaccaro recently commented about the Jennings situation saying it is “the best possible way to stick it to the NCAA and the NBA’s rule banning players straight from high school.”

If this rule was put into affect a year earlier, we would have seen LeBron James play for Ohio State instead of learning the ropes of the NBA.  It’s time for David Stern to do a real cost-benefit analysis and change this controversial requirement.

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