As pointed out by Coug1990, Brandon Jennings is indeed heading over to Europe for his (presumably) one season out of high school before heading to the NBA.
We’ve covered at length what this means for the Cougs, but the bigger question is what it means for college basketball. There will be a lot of of hand wringing about it — and I’ll post a bevy of links at the end of the post for your perusal — but I ultimately think it means very little, to be honest.
Think about it this way: Are guys like Carmelo Anthony, Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose instant stars signing mega endorsement deals the moment they declare for the draft if they spend their one year out of high school off the hoops radar in Europe?
Not a chance.
The elite players benefit tremendously from the exposure they get to the general American public in NCAA basketball. While they might make more in the short term in salary by heading to Europe — it’s been reported that Jennings’ salary would likely be between $100,000 and $300,000 next year — they stand to gain much more in the long term by taking it in the shorts financially for that one year at a university. Most guys will understand this, if they’ve got any brain at all.
The story might be a little different for the guys who aren’t top-level prospects, since they weren’t likely to get the kind of hype of an Oden or Durant anyway, but the reality is that almost all of these guys view themselves as Oden or Durant. And since they do, they’ll continue to go to college because they will want to have the one big year that will land them that No. 1 pick and endorsement riches beyond their dreams. Consider the story of Rose, who wasn’t even a lock for the No. 1 pick at the end of the season. Now, the hype is larger than life, thanks to his magical run through the NCAA Tournament.
One final thought. These guys absolutely crave attention; top-level basketball recruits have been coddled and worshiped since their junior high days, having been told they’re special pretty much everyday. They feed off the adoration. So, there’s a part of me that thinks Jennings is doing this simply because of the coverage that comes along with being the first. People will follow him to see how he does, given the novelty factor — it’s a unique way to generate hype and market himself.
But the second, third or 10th guy to go over there? No one will care as they watch their favorite college teams or fill out their brackets. And once they see a couple of guys head overseas where they’re viewed as just some snot-nosed kid from the States who isn’t ready to play with men, they’ll quickly realize college basketball is a much better means to their ends than European professional leagues.
Anyway, onto the hand wringing — starting with the one guy who has a well-reasoned agreement:
- Mike DeCourcey, The Sporting News: “College basketball does not need Jennings to thrive. Arizona will miss him, certainly. The Wildcats might have been fashioned into a national title contender with another elite pro prospect on their roster. But to suggest his experience might lead to a flood of high school players moving to Europe is naive, and to declare that such a flood would irreparably damage NCAA basketball is ludicrous.”
- Gary Parrish, CBS Sports.com: “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.”
- Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: “Will he be able to help a top European club over the next year — when he would be a college freshman? It will be a trick for him to get a big deal in Europe, where teams face a lot of pressure to win now, play very intricate offenses, and prefer to develop point guards over several years.”
- Jeff Goodman, Foxsports.com: “I don’t expect an influx of players to go this route, because frankly, there’s only a couple of kids each year at the highest level who would even explore this avenue.”
- Lute Olsen, Arizona coach: “We as coaches warned the NCAA about this when it was first put in place. It’s going to turn into a bigger mess.” He advocates a system similar to baseball’s, where players either come straight out or are bound to go to school for two or three years.
- Jason Whitlock, Foxsports.com: “Maybe Brandon Jennings will go down in history as the young man who forced the NCAA to honestly deal with the hypocrisy, stupidity and immorality of its rules.”