Friday, July 18, 2008

What if He Stays??

Brandon Jennings, of flat-top fame, has now officially signed with Italian side Pallacanestro Virtus Roma in what is being reported as either a two- or three-year contract. Which begs the question, what if stays? What if, instead of playing out the required one year to qualify for NBA age standards, Jennings sticks around in Rome for a few years?

While the financial aspects of the deal haven't yet been disclosed and Jennings won't even go to Rome until next week for a press conference, we've got to imagine he's going to be compensated pretty well. He's also going to be playing in a very competitive league. Andrea Bargniani and Danilo Gallinari have each been drafted in the NBA's top ten in the past few years coming out of the Italian league and coaches like Mike D'Antoni have spent time there (playing and coaching) learning the European game. Even Joe "Jelly Bean" Bryant spent seven years in Italy, allowing Kobe to grow up around the Italian game.

Virtus Roma currently employs Allan Ray, former Villanova star, and Ibrahim Jaaber, former Ivy League player of the year at Penn. Those guys should help Jennings get a feel for both Rome and the European style of play. Ultimately this experience will depend on what Jennings wants to get out of it. If he sees it simply as a jumping-off point, he will likely end up wasting his time in Italy. There are no provisions that guarantee he'll get to play so he'll have to earn his playing time accordingly. If he really gets into it, who knows, maybe he'll stick around and establish a bit of a career and legacy in Italy, though I'm sure he'll eventually come back to the States for the mega-money of the NBA.

Obviously Jennings can only be praised so much since he's still not going to college and is making this decision based purely on monetary reasons, but this could be a really interesting experiment. If other kids see him do well (and make money immediately) there could be some interest in European leagues as a plausible alternative to college. As a fan of college hoops I can't say I'd love that but it's better than guys screwing schools by showing up for one year and not really doing the whole class thing.

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