|EYES ON 3: Arizona recruit Brandon Jennings, center, might choose to play in Europe if his SAT scores, due out today, deem him academically ineligible and his decision could influence USC signee DeMar DeRozan, left, and Fairfax senior-to-be Renardo Sidney.|
Brandon Jennings may be the first but certainly not the last
It’s seems like it was yesterday when Brandon Jennings was just like any other kid playing youth basketball with the Rancho All Stars near Dorsey High School, but this week, Jennings may become a pioneer of sorts.
Jennings, who began his star studded hoops fantasy with coach Sean Brandon as a stringy seven year old, has since mushroomed into one of the elite amateur players in America.
After word got out that Jennings had the tools to potentially be a great one, he left Rancho and joined South Coast All Stars elite AAU team in Orange County.
His mother Alice Knox moved there with her younger son Terrance and the foundation for a ecstasy in hoops dreams begin to materialize.
By 14-years of age, Jennings was considered an elite basketball prodigy, sought after by high schools and even colleges although he had yet to complete middle school.
His frame began to fill out as his passing and ball handling skills continued to mesmerize the opposition.
Upon completing middle school in predominantly white Orange County, he enrolled at basketball power Compton Dominguez.
As a much heralded freshman, he didn’t disappoint and was even better as a sophomore, but the Dons failed to win a CIF-Southern Section championship in each of those seasons.
Then without a hint or a whisper to Dominguez coach Russell Otis, Jennings was gone again-this time he was leaving California altogether- to attend the prestigious Oak Hill Academy, a boarding school for grades 8-12 in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia.
It was there where Jennings continued to elevate his impressive skills and earn such accolades as McDonalds All American, Jordan Classic All American and the coveted Naismith National Player of the Year award as the top high school player in the nation.
It was also at Oak Hill where Jennings took and passed the SAT test that made him eligible to receive a full scholarship to attend Arizona University, but those collegiate plans may never materialize.
Jennings had previously taken the SAT at Dominguez as a sophomore but did not receive a qualifying score. The second time, he took the test at Oak Hill this year and his test score skyrocketed by more than 1000 points.
He says that he scored higher because he studied more, but the NCAA did believe him and has ruled him ineligible and Jennings has since taken the test again and will receive his scores today.
Sentinel sources say that it is not likely that Jennings will earn a qualifying test score that will allow for him to honor his national Letter of Intent to attend Arizona.
If he doesn’t meet the qualifications, Jennings, who turns 19 on Sept 23, says that he will explore the opportunity of play for one year in Europe as a professional.
Since the NBA has prohibited prep players from applying for the NBA draft until a year a after graduating from high school, Jennings cannot apply for the draft.
So the much heralded Jennings, who is considered the top point guard for the 2009 NBA draft, and his mother have hired an attorney with hopes of becoming the first prep since the draft rule was implemented to go overseas for a year and then apply for the draft.
Because he is so gifted, it is very likely that Jennings could earn as much as $1 million playing abroad and while the obvious spotlight is on him at the moment, it is likely that at least two more local prep prospects will follow suit.
Renardo Sidney is a much ballyhooed post player for Fairfax High School and is considered the top prep player for the class of 2009.
While the 6-10 gem is being highly recruited by several major universities such as UCLA, USC and Arizona State, it is quite likely that Sidney will not play a single game of college ball.
“I spoke to the mother just the other day and she said that her family is exhausted by the whole process and just wants for her son to play one year in Europe and then the NBA,” said a person speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another who may join Jennings in Europe this year is former club basketball teammate Demar DeRozan, a 6-6 Michael Jordan clone who starred for three years at Compton High School and signed a Nation Letter of Intent to attend USC.
DeRozan has reportedly not qualified to attend USC and furthermore is concerned by the allegations that the school may be hit with probation because of the OJ Mayo scandal that did not directly involve anyone from USC.
What all three players have in common is strong family ties and all were reared having to struggle financially, thus basketball for them and their families is a means for long-term support.
They are all can’t miss prospects, with one noted sports agent saying, “DeRozan is the best player since LeBron James. There is nothing even remotely like him.”
Sidney moved to the Southland from Mississippi with his family and burst onto the scene with the dynamic Southern California All Stars club team. He went to Artesia for one year and led them to CIF-SS and State championships before transferring to Fairfax in Los Angeles last season where he led his team to the City Section finals.
Each of them will be playing professional basketball for millions. It’s not a matter if, but when and in Jennings and DeRozan’s case. probably sooner.