Posted on: October 30, 2009 10:02 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2009 10:24 pm
I've forever rejected the premise that college is the best place for prospects to develop.
Sure, they can develop in college.
No argument there.
Brandon Roy is a great example of how it sometimes work.
But those who suggest any path to the NBA that doesn't involve college is a wrong path frustrate the hell out of me because they're so obviously incorrect. And that's why I'm thrilled to report that Brandon Jennings -- the 'knucklehead' who went to Europe and 'struggled' rather than play at Arizona last season -- finished with 17 points, nine assists and nine rebounds in his NBA debut.
Somewhere, Sonny Vacarro is smiling.
Posted on: September 2, 2008 3:18 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2008 3:23 pm
Naturally, Brandon Jennings was a topic of conversation.
"He's been over there for two weeks now," Vaccaro said. "If he comes out of this alive it's going to be revolutionary."
Jennings, of course, is the Arizona signee who decided to be the first American to flip the bird to the NBA and NCAA and spend his first year after high school playing professionally in Europe while waiting to become eligible for the 2009 NBA Draft. It's a bold move. And anybody wondering whether this will be an isolated event should know that Vaccaro said he has been contacted by at least 12 families of elite high school players -- freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors -- who are also interested in exploring the option of skipping college in favor of the Euroleague.
"I spoke to another three just this weekend,” Vaccaro said. "I'm not saying they all want to go. But they are all interested in knowing what's possible."
So why are the families reaching out to Vaccaro, you ask?
It's because the historically prominent figure was instrumental in Jennings' move and has become a liaison of sorts between the Euroleague and America's youth since resigning his position with Reebok and beginning a crusade against the NBA and NCAA that will take him to yet another college campus for a speaking engagement next week. Vaccaro has developed dozens of European contacts, both owners and coaches, and he now has a direct line that can be used to find out what's possible and what isn't for any curious mind.
"I've been well received over there," Vaccaro said. "It's almost like I'm more involved now that I'm no longer involved."
On another note, I've got two words for you to remember: Under Armour.
Yes, I know Under Armour isn't really in the basketball business and that it doesn’t have a single basketball player endorsing its products. But remember, Jennings already has the label of trendsetter, and if Under Armour wanted to expand its brand on a global level this might be a good place to start.
To be clear, other shoe companies are also interested in Jennings.
A deal should get done soon.
But don't be surprised if Jennings shuns the traditional route and signs with Under Armour. And don't be surprised if Vaccaro is right in the middle of it. And don't be surprised if it leads to Nike, Adidas and Reebok eventually finding themselves once again in competition in some capacity with the man who once worked for each of those companies.
Under Armour is about to become a player in basketball.
It should be fun to watch develop.
Anyway, one last note on Jennings. Lots of you have asked whether he will play against Spanish phenon Ricky Rubio this season. The answer to that question is 'Yes', and the dates have been confirmed. Jennings plays for Lottomatica Roma and Rubio plays for Joventut Badalona. Those two teams will meet Oct. 29 in Rome and Dec. 11 in Spain. So mark your calendars because the games should get plenty of hype and garner unprecedented attention, both over there and over here.
Posted on: August 15, 2008 12:17 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2008 12:18 pm
Here's Friday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: Does The Chad look like Smoky The Bear? Hibernating and hugging trees! It may seem like The Chad was in hibernation. But recently, The Chad was in Europe being offered free fries with mayonnaise on them by a Belgium man who looked like a combination of Jeff Daniels and a Russian Butcher working for the KGB. Madness, pure madness!!! Anyways, The Chad would like to know if a particular scenario were to occur overseas? Would it be at all possible for Brandon Jennings to go up against 17-year-old Ricky Rubio, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft of DKV Joventut this year? Is Virtus Roma even in the ACB league, though? This would just be an epic matchup; recalling memories of the O.J. Mayo vs. Derrick Rose/Eric Gordon matchup two years ago in Las Vegas. Only this time there would be some European flair, without a bunch of Brian Cliftons or Rodney Guillorys running around. What are your thoughts on Rubio, Gary? How would he fare against the cream of the crop in 2009, a la Lance Stephenson, John Wall or Kenny Boynton? Or would this Spaniard, Rubio, punish Jennings like he was Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men. He could be rockin' the bull cut, dribbling the ball in one hand, cattle gun in the other, and he could intimidate refs by saying "Call it, friendo." Meanwhile, Jennings would be throwing oops and doing the shake-and-bake while sporting a classic Gumby (reference: McDonald's game). Classic matchup right there. Also, great article on Milton Jennings, Gary. Amazing to see how far he's come considering he didn't start playing basketball until eighth grade. And, Gary, if you're still in Beaverton, remember this passage if you encounter any belligerent Serbians. Ja sam Zeus od zurnalazam, stajati pozadi!!!!!!! You just got to love The Chad!
-- Chad 'The Chad' Williams
For those who have no idea what just happened, that's a note from The Chad, who became something of a legend in the mailbags over the past two years (back when I did them Doyel-style) before disappearing for months. Other readers had noticed his absence recently. I was worried I lost him forever. But then I got this email Thursday afternoon, and now everything seems right in the world. He's a first-ballot Hall of Fame emailer, The Chad. I'm inclined to let him have this Dear Gary space every day, if he wants it.
Anyway, on to the questions (or at least the ones I caught).
Will Brandon Jennings and Ricky Rubio play against each other this season?
Yes, I'm told they will.
I'll try to get you a date.
(And I might try to go!)
As for my thoughts on Rubio, I don't have a whole bunch, to tell the truth. I haven't seen him enough to write intelligently about the kid, so I won't even try. But my understanding is that he'd do just fine in our college game and certainly be considered among the elite point guards in this country if he was, you know, in this country. With a cattle gun, I think he'd be unstoppable.
Posted on: July 16, 2008 3:48 pm
Edited on: July 16, 2008 3:48 pm
Brandon Jennings has signed with Pallacanestro Virtus Roma of the Italian league, meaning the Arizona signee will indeed play in Europe this season and become the first American to spend the year immediately following high school overseas while waiting for the NBA Draft.
"David Stern said when the age limit was put in that this wouldn't force kids to college, that they could still go to the NBDL or Europe," Sonny Vaccaro, who was instrumental in Jennings' decision, said by phone Wednesday. "Well, someone took David's advice."
Specifics of the deal have not been disclosed. But a source close to Jennings told CBSSports.com the elite point guard has signed a three-year, multimillion dollar contract that features a buyout each year designed to protect the Italian team. Meantime, Vaccaro said he will accompany Jennings to Rome next week for a formal press conference.
Posted on: July 9, 2008 1:15 am
AKRON, Ohio -- One done, how many more to go?
That's the real question surrounding Brandon Jennings' announcement that he will spend the next year in Europe as a professional while waiting for the 2009 NBA Draft. Forget what it means to Arizona or Lute Olson. What it means to college basketball in general is what has the industry buzzing, because coaches will now have to approach the recruitment of elite prospects like they used to approach the recruitment of elite prospects, which is to say with great caution and the understanding that there's a decent chance they'll never enroll.
"By his sophomore year, nobody was recruiting LeBron anymore because everybody knew he wasn't going to college," were some of the words Akron coach Keith Dambrot shared Tuesday night at the LeBron James Skills Academy while we chatted about the superstar he once coached in high school. By the end of the night, I couldn't help but think this is the way coaches will again be approaching situations because they won't want to waste time on a prospect chasing the dollar.
And by dollar, I mean euro.
In that way, Jennings is very much going to be the trendsetter Sonny Vaccaro wanted, and anybody actively recruiting Class of 2009 stars Renardo Sidney and Lance Stephenson had better reevaluate things, ASAP. Because on Tuesday night Jennings officially opened the door the NCAA and NBA hoped would never open, and now there's no telling how many prospects are going to try to follow his lead.
Posted on: June 25, 2008 1:29 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2008 11:36 am
Many of the NBA Draft's projected lottery picks -- including Michael Beasley, Kevin Love and Jerryd Bayless -- will gather at the Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem tonight for the premiere of Gunnin' For That #1 Spot. The film is a documentary about the Elite 24 event at Rucker Park -- produced and directed by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch -- and it stars one-and-done players such as Beasley, Love and Bayless (plus recent high school graduates Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings).
There is a limited release Friday in Phoenix, New York, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Portland.
Here's a link to the official website.
Here's a link to the trailer.
Posted on: June 25, 2008 10:23 am
Edited on: June 25, 2008 10:25 am
Here's Wednesday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: Brandon Jennings should go straight to Europe and do what he loves and enjoys doing -- playing basketball and entertaining the fans. This NBA age-limit rule should be illegal considering young adults can go pro in golf, tennis, ice-skating, soccer, etc., and make a living doing what they enjoy.
You're preaching to the choir, Thomas, though I don't know whether the NBA's rule that prevents high school players from going straight to the league like LeBron James, Kendrick Perkins and many others once did should be illegal, exactly. I'm not a lawyer and couldn't possibly speak to that with any sort of intelligence. But if you want me to tell you the rule is wrong and that it was put in place for wrong reasons, well, I've told you that many times and have no problem telling you again.
The rule is wrong.
I mean, I loved watching Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley play in college. But those guys didn't belong in college any more than John Lennon or Scarlett Johansson or Tiger Woods belonged in college. And if nobody has a problem with musicians and actors and golfers skipping-out on an education if they are clearly talented enough to get somebody to pay them millions without it, I can't understand why anybody has a problem with basketball players doing the same thing -- except for that we love our college basketball teams in a way that we don't love our college bands, drama clubs and golf teams.
In other words, when a great basketball player skips college it hurts somebody's favorite college basketball team. That's why people care so much. But that's no reason to try to force people who don't want to be in college into college. And so if Jennings is the first guy who flips the bird to the NBA and shows them he's going to get paid for being great at his age even though the NBA tried to make it difficult for him, well, more power to him, and I wish him luck.
Posted on: June 23, 2008 3:36 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2008 3:38 pm
This Brandon Jennings-to-Europe thing is gaining serious momentum.
Not only is it now clear Jennings will explore going to the Euroleague regardless of whether he is cleared academically to play at Arizona -- which was reported Sunday here at CBSSports.com -- it's also obvious, from talking to various sources Monday, that Jennings plans to use a qualifying SAT score as nothing more than leverage in possible negotiations. So the bottom line is that the Arizona signee really wants to be a professional, ASAP, and unless there simply isn't a market for him overseas put me down as someone who believes Jennings is more interested in being a trendsetter than a Wildcat.
"I think the family is going to take a real hard look at the options here," said Jeffrey Valle, a Los Angeles-based attorney who is advising the Jennings family. "He owes it to himself to look at what is potentially available and do what's best and that's not always an easy call."
If Jennings jumps to Europe he'll be the first player to flip the proverbial bird, if you will, to the NCAA and NBA and essentially tell both institutions he's not interested in doing a year in college just because the NBA demands a prospect to be one year removed from high school before entering the draft. Assuming it works this could lead to a slew of Class of 2009 prospects exploring the same route, among them Renardo Sidney and Lance Stephenson. But it remains unclear what kind of money is genuinely available to a prospect like Jennings, and that's the biggest question mark to date.
"You'd think several hundred thousand would be realistic,” Valle said. "And if it becomes a bidding war, who knows?"