Brandon Jennings is a super fast point guard from Compton, California. He's got all the skills to make it as a pro… except he's a senior in high school right now… and he's not exactly "making the grade." He's supposed to go to Arizona… but he can't get his SAT's high enough. So what's he supposed to do now?
Even if he does academically qualify, he is strongly considering telling college hoops, “no thanks,” and either spending the year playing professionally in Europe or Israel, or signing with an agent and working out with personal trainers and coaches.
“For a person that plays ball, our dream is to get to the NBA,” Jennings told The New York Times. “College is like, ‘OK, 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 … I told my mom that (going to Europe) was something we should look into. Going overseas, it seems like a good idea. I think people just develop better over there.”
They also get paid in Europe, which doesn’t happen, at least above the table, in the NCAA. In making money, Jennings could also make history.
So the question being asked by many people today is: Will Jennings set a new trend of high school phenoms spending one year in Europe, making 6-figures, and then coming back to the NBA… or is this an idle threat because NCAA glory is an easy way to increase your draft stock?
I'm going with the latter. I think there's a bit of a Euro-backlash in the NBA right now (especially after the marshmallow-soft finals performances from Pau Gasol and Sasha Vujacic)… and there's no way an agent lets an American kid head over to a foreign country, with foreign rules, and a different mindset just to make a few hundred grand right away.
On the surface, it sounds great. But its not. Not only have I played in Europe… I played in Greece. And I'm Greek. I speak the language. I have family there… and even I felt isolated and alone at times. What's some kid from Compton gonna feel when he's walking through the streets of Madrid, or Rome, or Athens with no clue how to function in their society? He can barely get his SAT's high enough to get into a school that will bend every rule to get him in there… should an agent trust him to be smart enough to handle THAT kind of adjustment?
No. His life will suffer… and then his game will suffer. And the easy $200,000 he'll make in year one won't be worth the millions of dollars he blew in NBA money.