Milwaukee is fine with Jennings
“When I first got to Milwaukee, all I heard was all this bad stuff—Milwaukee is really boring, that it’s terrible, but I really got to see the town,” said Jennings, who played here in the McDonald’s High School All-American Game in 2008. “Milwaukee’s not a bad town. It’s kind of laid back—a lot of fishing, a lot of boats, a lot of water.”
The Bucks selected Jennings at No. 10 in the NBA draft on Thursday night and, in a puzzling development for Bucks fans, the draft went on without the traditional player interview at Madison Square Garden in New York. The prep star-turned European pro was initially held back from the event by his agent, but showed up about 20 minutes later and shook Commissioner David Stern’s hand after the 14th pick.
Jennings was the 2008 Naismith Player of the Year as a high school senior at Oak Hill Academy and committed to play at Arizona, but elected to turn pro.
“I was just waiting for my SAT score, which I never have gotten back,” he said. “I just had to make a decision to go overseas and I think it was the best decision I’ve made so far in my life.”
He joined Lottomatica Virtus Roma in a decision that could encourage other prep players to leave the U.S. for Europe.
“I got to go to a lot of different places overseas, Germany, Turkey, Spain at a young age, you can’t ask for nothing better than that,” he said.
Jennings, who is from Compton, Calif., transferred from Dominguez High School after his sophomore year and became one of the brightest stars at Oak Hill Academy, the powerhouse Virginia prep school. He set school records his senior year for single-season points (1,312), scoring average (35.5) and points in a game (63).
The 6-foot-1 guard then finished with a strong performance on the same court he’ll start his pro career when he played in the McDonald’s game.
He’s already got his sports priorities straight when he comes to Wisconsin in the fall for training camp.
“I get to go to a Green Bay Packers game, so I can’t wait for that,” Jennings said.
In Europe, Jennings averaged 5.5 points and 2.3 assists in 17 minutes in 27 Italian League games and 7.6 points and 1.6 assists in Euroleague play even though scouts said he seemed to lose some of his shooting touch.
“I wasn’t playing my position, the point guard position, they had me all over the place, I was playing the two and the three,” he said. “When I was out there, I wasn’t comfortable and I was never in a rhythm, so when I was out there, I was taking shots as I could.”
Still, he maintained that going abroad was the right decision for him throughout the NBA pre-draft workout process.
“I don’t regret it at all,” Jennings said. “I still went top 10. I think you’ll see more kids doing it. I hope they do it, it’s a great experience overall. You just learn a lot.”
Bucks player personnel director Dave Babcock said that Jennings was a rare type of player who could be a future superstar and Bucks scouting director Billy McKinney said Jennings’ speed was one of his biggest assets.
“Incredibly quick,” McKinney said. “He’s a very gifted young man at 18 years old to do what he did going overseas to play.”
Now 19, Jennings worked out with the Bucks on Monday, but caught his left thumb in Jeff Teague’s jersey, forcing him to pass more. That might have helped him with coach Scott Skiles, a noted disciplinarian who holds the all-time record for assists in a game.
“I wouldn’t mind playing for a guy like that. They have some great pieces,” Jennings said at the time.
In the meantime, those pieces have changed. Bucks general manager John Hammond traded Richard Jefferson to the Spurs for Bruce Bowen and Kurt Thomas and got forward Amir Johnson from Detroit for Fabricio Oberto.
Jennings’ agent, Bill Duffy, believed his client might drop out of the lottery and held Jennings back from attending the draft. But Jennings was calm during interviews the day before, saying it didn’t matter where he went.
“I’m not nervous at all, I’m just going with the flow. Whatever happens, happens,” he said.
And he landed right where Milwaukee wanted him.
BRANDON JENNINGS FILE
Born: Sept. 23, 1989.
Hometown: Los Angeles.
Weight: 170 pounds.
Last year: On July 16, 2008, Jennings signed with Lottomatica Roma of the Italian Lega A. The contract he signed with Roma was for $1.65 million guaranteed. Under Armour gave Jennings a $2 million contract to showcase its products in the Euroleague. Jennings was the first American player to play for a European team rather than play for a college basketball team since the NBA’s age restriction rule was implemented. In 27 games Jennings averaged 5.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.5 steals in 17 minutes per game. He shot 35.1 percent from the field and 20.7 percent from three-point range.
Fast facts: Jennings was named the Naismith National High School Player of the Year in 2008. He was also the Parade Magazine and Gatorade national player of the year … In his senior year at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., Jennings averaged 32.7 points, 7.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game and set the school record for points in a season … In August 2006, Jennings said he would play college basketball at Southern California … He is the cousin of Marcus Williams, former point guard of the Golden State Warriors, New Jersey Nets, and formerly of the University of Connecticut.
JODIE MEEKS FILE
Born: Aug. 21, 1987.
Hometown: Norcross, Ga.
Height: 6-foot-4. Weight: 208 pounds.
Fast facts: On Jan. 13, 2009, Meeks broke the Kentucky single-game scoring record, formerly held by Dan Issel, by scoring 54 points against Tennessee. In the same game, he broke the single-game three-point record, which he had previously shared with Tony Delk, by making 10 three-pointers … During his senior high school season, Meeks averaged 23.6 points per game during the regular season and 28.3 points per game during the state playoffs. Meeks was named the 2006 Atlanta Journal-Constitution Player of the Year … He was a unanimous selection to the SEC All-Freshman team … A sports hernia injury limited Meeks to 11 games as a sophomore … Meeks was named a unanimous selection to the All-SEC first team during his junior season.