It’s no secret the minute I saw Brandon Jennings in the McDonald’s High School All-Star Game, I knew the kid could ball. Now so does everyone else.
I heard his name mentioned around the office a couple of times, the next big thing coming straight from Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. But never saw the proof myself. I tuned into the All-Star game one night and saw old school in a new era. Here’s Jennings with the Kid’n’Play high top fade, equipped with wristbands and that old school mentality. He lit up the screen. Then I saw him play.
Jennings was the best player on the court in the first half. He was doing whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. Nobody could match up with his skill set. He was making passes that reminded me of Magic Johnson during the Showtime era of the 80’s.
Jennings was ticketed to play college ball at Arizona. But everyone on the inside knew he had his heart set on the NBA. Jennings couldn’t make the jump from high school to pro due to the NBA’s “prep-to-pro” rule adopted in 2006. The next move brought some heated discussions.
He decided against becoming a Wildcat and instead signed a 1.65 million dollar contract with Lottomatica Roma in Italy. A bonus came with the signing: another 2 million in a deal with Under Amour to showcase their gear in the Euroleague. However, there were struggles early on. In his first year as a pro, Jennings played limited minutes. He averaged 5.5 points, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals in 17 minutes a game.
After the season, Jennings entered the 2009 NBA draft. Here is where the fun begins. NBA insiders had Jennings going anywhere from being a Top 5 pick to sitting until the second round. Milwaukee had him on their radar but nothing was final. Rumor has it the Bucks were also interested in Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, with Flynn as their number one on the board. But he was taken by Minnesota, leaving the Bucks with a second option for their pick at the 10th spot.
The funny thing was Jennings and his family wasn’t at Madison Square Garden during the draft. They were instead at a hotel nearby cause of the uncertainty of where he would be taken. While watching the drama unfold on TV, the announcement was made. The Bucks selected Jennings with the 10th pick of the draft.
After the selection Jennings made his way to MSG. In what has to be the best draft entrance ever, he came out on the stage after the 14th pick was announced to have his picture taken with NBA commissioner David Stern. Just classic.
Jennings went on to show his doubters that he has the skills to play in the league, finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting. But many felt he should’ve won. His numbers: 15.5 points and 5.7 assists per game. The rookie even had a 55-point game earlier this year and helped guide the Bucks to their first playoff appearance in a long time. The Bucks had a chance at the upset against Atlanta, taking a 3-2 series lead and heading back to Milwaukee for Game 6. However the Bucks were blown out in both Game 6 and 7 and bumped out of the playoffs.
If his first year is any indication, Jennings is on the road to superstardom. His game can be best described as simply “where amazing happens.”
Written by C. James