06/30/2008 11:28 AM ET
Will Brandon Jennings be a trendsetter?
Top-ranked point guard may spend year in Europe
By Adam Zagoria / SNY.tv
Brandon Jennings says his game may improve more in Europe than it would in the NCAA. (Kelly Kline/Nike)

UNION, N.J. -- Brandon Jennings could be done with the NCAA before even spending one year on campus.

A 6-foot-2 point guard out of Oak Hill (Va.) Academy and the top-ranked prep player in America according to ESPN, Jennings is considering spending one year in Europe instead of playing next year at Arizona, the school to which he committed.

The question is: If Jennings goes overseas, will it set a trend for others to follow? Could we see a Lance Stephenson or a Renardo Sidney follow Jennings abroad for a year before entering the NBA?

"I think it potentially could be exactly that, especially if it works out well," said Jeff Valle, a Los Angeles-based attorney representing Jennings who has worked with Eric Clapton, Kevin Costner and HBO. "And it may also cause the [NBA and NCAA] to look more carefully into their own situation [with the age limit of 19]. If the top players find it more attractive to not go to play college ball because they get paid right away and play in very competitive international leagues, I could imagine the NCAA saying, 'We have to make sure we're not losing our top players.'"

Stephenson, a 6-5 guard who has led Brooklyn's Lincoln High School to three straight PSAL championships, said he would wait and see how the Jennings Saga turns out before making a decision about his own future.

"I'm looking at Brandon right now, see how he's doing. If he goes there [to Europe] then I'll see how it is," Stephenson, a rising senior and one of the top players in the Class of 2009, said Friday at the Steve Nash Nike Skills Academy. "If I do it, then I'll do it, but right now I'm thinking about college."

Stephenson and his father have listed Kansas, USC, UCLA and St. John's as his possible college destinations, and Lance Stephenson Sr. has also mentioned the U.S. Army as an option. The 6-10 Sidney, also considered one of the elite players in the Class of 2009 and a friend of Stephenson, might also consider going overseas, although he has a long list of top American colleges courting him.

"Brandon's decision will definitely have an effect on the younger kids," Sidney's father, Renardo Sidney Sr., told FoxSports.com. "For us, it's definitely an option."

Jennings is committed to Arizona, but will not learn whether he has a qualifying test score until July 5. He will then huddle with his family and advisors and decide what's next. He could opt to enroll at Arizona if he qualifies, or he could go to Europe or elsewhere.

"I think people just develop better over there [in Europe]," Jennings, a McDonald's All-American, told The New York Times. "You're playing professional ball for a year, you're playing against guys who are older than you. I'll constantly be playing basketball 24-7. I don't have to worry about school and things like that."

"For a person that plays ball, our dream is to get to the NBA.," Jennings added. "College is like, OK, we'll do this one year, but our real mindset is that we're trying to get to the league, take care of our families. They're making us do college so we feel like, 'Let's do one year, go to class half the time.'"

Jennings has spoken with former sneaker guru Sonny Vaccaro, Valle said, and Vaccaro is a staunch opponent of the NBA limit, which says players must be a year removed from their high school graduating class before being eligible for the pros. NBA Commissioner David Stern and NCAA President Myles Brand are in favor of extending the age limit to 20, or two years after high school.

"I honestly think [the age limit] is the most un-American thing I've ever seen," Vaccaro said. "The very fact that David Stern and Myles Brand can so flippantly suggest that they'll raise it another year at the expense of individuals' rights to work is not annoying anymore. It's arrogance at its peak, and it does not take into consideration the individuals that are involved."

In the past, Vaccaro has advocated taking a barnstorming team of high school graduates to Europe for a year instead of having them go to college. He also mentioned last summer that a high school graduate could apply for dual citizenship with the country his family originally came from, thereby allowing that player to enter the NBA as an international player at the age of 18.

Now, Jennings is on the brink of setting out on a bold new path.

Still, Valle said it would have to be the best situation for Jennings, a flashy playmaker with tremendous court vision. "He's looking to best develop his long-term career, so it would have to be a coach that makes him a better player, a place where he can excel and obviously there would have to be contractual issues as well," Valle said.

Fran Fraschilla, an expert on international basketball for ESPN, said there may be some complications in Jennings going to Europe.

"The higher the level he goes, or the more money he makes, the less likely he is to get on the floor for meaningful minutes because the competition level is far greater than he even thinks it is," Fraschilla said. "The top teams in Europe -- [from] Italy, Spain and Greece -- they may not be willing to make a financial commitment that's only going to be a one-year commitment and because those teams are so system-oriented, there's not the freelance aspect of Euro-ball that fits his game. The coaches are more structured. There's more an NBA mentality in terms of, 'We'll run when we can but we have to be really good in the half court.' ... Frankly as good as he is, and he may or may not be the best high school player coming out this year, it doesn't mean he can walk in and start. There are some really good ex-college and NBA players playing in Europe right now. [For Jennings], it would be like going from high school to taking graduate classes and missing your undergraduate studies. The reality is, if he picks the wrong team or league, he's not going to be successful. Now, if he goes to a team that is willing to give him an opportunity to play, even as a non-starter, there's a chance he could really progress."

Adam Zagoria is a contributor to SNY.tv.
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