Turning The Tables On The Powers Of Hoop

By Kevin Sherrington
Updated: July 8, 2008

DALLAS — Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo led the “one-and-done” parade in last month’s NBA draft, which included a record 10 freshmen in the first round.

Brandon Jennings wasn’t able to join them, but only because high school seniors weren’t eligible.

And if the 6-foot-2 point guard out of Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy has his way, he may not enter next year’s NBA draft as a freshman, either.

Here’s the deal: Jennings wants no part of the collusion between the NBA and NCAA that prohibits the league from drafting kids until they’re a year out of high school, and he’s willing to take his game out of the country to make his pioneering point.

“It’ll be a good thing for the kids,” he told The New York Times, “and a bad thing for the college coaches.”

Never mind that chances are slim our hero actually goes to Europe and pulls this off. Odds are he’ll end up at Arizona, where he’ll replace this year’s one-and-done phenom, Jerryd Bayless.

But at least he’s making a statement about the virulent hypocrisy in basketball, and that’s worth creating a flap over.

Besides, he kinda likes the idea of being a pioneer.

“That’s Brandon,” his coach, Oak Hill’s Steve Smith, told me by phone. “He’s a funny kid. He’s always changing his hairdo or something. He’s a free spirit.

“If people tell him it’s the wrong thing to do, he doesn’t necessarily think he’s wrong.”

Only the NBA and NCAA are wrong on this point. College isn’t for everyone, especially if you can make seven figures without it.

Consider this: If Jennings were the fourth-best pitcher in the country instead of the fourth-ranked basketball player, no one could make him go to college for a year. He’d be a top-10 pick. His new team would give him a big bonus, then plant him so deep in its farm system he wouldn’t come up for years.

More basketball players are ready to make the jump from high school to the highest level every year than in the 43-year history of baseball’s draft.

If a baseball player decides not to sign after high school, he must wait until after his junior year to turn pro once he enrolls at a four-year school.

College basketball, on the other hand, is more than happy to carry off the NBA’s little charade. Once on campus, all a one-and-done prospect has to do is pass a couple of classes in the fall. Come spring, good luck finding him for roll call.

Smith calls the idea of keeping a kid out of the draft just to fulfill the above scenario “a joke.”

“It needs to be two or three years, or zero,” Smith said of the wait. “One is a fiasco.”

If he carries through with his threat to challenge the powers-that-be, Jennings won’t have it easy. NBA scouts say he’ll have to find the right fit in Europe or Israel. Competition will be tougher. At 170 pounds, he’ll have to bulk up. But he wouldn’t get homesick. His mother and brother would move with him.

If Jennings goes ahead and enrolls at Arizona, he’ll have to make other adjustments. Some kids handle it better than others. Kevin Durant did quite nicely in his brief stay at Texas.

But Brandon Jennings is no Kevin Durant.

“To be totally honest, Brandon doesn’t like school all that much,” Smith said. “He’s kinda tired of school. He’s a gym rat.

“He likes to play basketball, and he wants to get paid to do it.”

Of course, he could still do that in college. But that’s a lesson in hypocrisy for another day.