But Jennings did not leave. Why?
"Because I wanted to keep proving everybody wrong," he said.
Jennings is confident/
cocky/brash; your choice. He is just one of the point guards who figures to be gone tonight before the Sixers get a chance to choose their point guard with the 17th pick in the first round.
He sat there yesterday at a round table in a hotel ballroom and talked about his hopes and his dreams, as well as his unconventional path. He sat on the bench a lot in Italy, playing behind former Penn guard Ibby Jaaber, averaging only 5.5 points a game. He lived in an apartment with his mother and his brother. He had no bands, no cheerleaders, no NCAA Tournament. He says he did the right thing for him.
"The experience was great," Jennings said. "I learned a lot about life. I think I learned more than I would have in college."
He is the living embodiment of mixed emotions for a thinking college basketball fan. Because, on the one hand, if you love the game and the atmosphere that surrounds the game, it cannot be good for the sport when a top player bypasses all of that for a season in Europe. But also because, on the other hand, these one-and-done kids pretty much make a mockery of everything that everybody allegedly wants college basketball to be about.
The game is worse without the most talented players. The game is more philosophically honest without the one-and-done guys. It tugs both ways. But that is the word that best describes Jennings' decision: honest. And now we get to watch the results.
For his part, Jennings fully acknowledges the debate about him in the basketball community. He knows the importance of his draft position tonight in that conversation, knows that if he is a high pick, his decision will be vindicated in the homes of elite high school kids all over the country.
Asked what it would take to demonstrate the wisdom of his European adventure, Jennings said, "I think if I go top five, if I'm a top-five pick, for sure, I think it was the best decision. Even top 10 - but I think top five would really stand out."
Would something past the top 10 prove he was wrong?
"No," Jennings said, wanting to have it both ways, "because I did get that year under my belt, playing professional basketball, so you can't take that away. The money was cool but just overall, being around grown men and playing that different style of game and learning different things.
"I'm sure I will get a lot of heat from the media. I'm sure a lot of people will be thinking, 'You see what happened to Jennings, so you probably don't want to do the overseas thing.' So I'm sure there will be a lot of negatives behind it. I'll be ready for it."
And the college basketball community overall? Is it rooting for him?
"Probably not," Jennings said. "I think if I go top five, I think you'll see more guys going overseas. I think it's a great experience. I think more kids should do it, just to step out of their comfort zone and see how strong they really are as a person. I think I've shown that this year. I've proved to everybody that I'm a strong person and I can handle it. Even though I didn't play a lot, I handled my own when I was out there."
Already, there is a 6-11 high school junior from San Diego named Jeremy Tyler who is heading to Europe for two seasons - and, yes, he and Jennings have talked. Jennings says that Tyler, because he's a big man, will do better in Europe than he did. He said that after 2 years, Tyler will be the top pick in the NBA draft.
By then, you wonder how worn will be the path that Brandon Jennings first took. *
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