Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Brandon Jennings and those close to him are weighing the options as to whether he will play overseas or at Arizona next season.
The question is: If Jennings goes overseas, will it set a trend for others to follow? Could we see a Lance Stephenson or a Renardo Sidney follow Jennings abroad for a year before entering the NBA?
“I think it potentially could be exactly that, especially if it works out well,” said Jeff Valle, a Los Angeles-based attorney representing Jennings who has worked with Eric Clapton, Kevin Costner and Home Box Office. “And it may also cause the (NBA and NCAA) to look more carefully into their own situation (with the age limit). If the top players find it more attractive to not go to play college ball because they get paid right away and play in very competitive international leagues, I could imagine the NCAA saying, ‘We have to make sure we’re not losing our top players.'”
The 6-foot-1 Jennings is committed to Arizona, but has not received a qualifying test score. After learning his test score Thursday (which also happens to be the day of the NBA Draft), he will huddle with his family and advisors and decide what’s next. He could opt to enroll at Arizona if he qualifies, or he could go to Europe or elsewhere.
“I think people just develop better over there (in Europe),” Jennings, a McDonald’s All-American out of Oak Hill Academy (Va.) , told The New York Times. “You’re playing professional ball for a year, you’re playing against guys who are older than you. I’ll constantly be playing basketball 24-7. I don’t have to worry about school and things like that
“For a person that plays ball, our dream is to get to the N.B.A.,” Jennings added. “College is like, O.K., we’ll do this one year, but our real mind-set is that we’re trying to get to the league, take care of our families. They’re making us do college so we feel like, Let’s do one year, go to class half the time.”
Jennings has spoken with former sneaker guru Sonny Vaccaro, Valle said, and Vaccaro is a staunch opponent of the NBA limit, which says players must be a year removed from their high school graduating class before being eligible for the pros. NBA Commissioner David Stern and NCAA President Myles Brand are in favor of extending the age limit to 20, or two years after high school.
“I honestly think (the age limit) is the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen,” Vaccaro told me in April. “The very fact that David Stern and Myles Brand can so flippantly suggest that they’ll raise it another year at the expense of individuals’ rights to work is not annoying anymore. It’s arrogance at its peak, and it does not take into consideration the individuals that are involved.”
In the past, Vaccaro has advocated taking a barnstorming team of high school graduates to Europe for a year instead of having them go to college. He also mentioned to me last summer that a high school graduate could apply for dual citizenship with the country his family originally came from, thereby allowing that player to enter the NBA as an international player at the age of 18.
Now, Jennings is on the brink of setting out on a bold new path.
Still, Valle said it would have to be the best situation for Jennings, a flashy playmaker with tremendous court vision.
“He’s looking to best develop his long-term career, so it would have to be a coach that makes him a better player, a place where he can excel and obviously there would have to be contractual issues as well,” Valle said.
“If it’s a sweet enough deal, why wouldn’t he look into it,” Kelly Williams, Jennings’ advisor, told Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com. “But there’s nothing definitive right now. They are in the process of investigating it, but he’s not going to go just to become the first kid to go overseas. We’re not going to put him in a bad situation. We’d try and put him in a situation where he can grow and develop.”
If Jennings does go to Europe or somewhere for a year, might a Stephenson or a Sidney, both stars in the Class of 2009, follow?
Stephenson, a 6-foot-5 guard from Brooklyn Lincoln, is considering Kansas, UCLA, USC and St. John’s, while the 6-10 Sidney of Fairfax (Cal.) High is looking at a number of schools, including Louisville, Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas, Florida, UCLA and USC. Sidney has openly talked about a possible package deal with Stephenson at the next level.
Who knows, maybe that package could involve going overseas for a year?
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.