Now we are being told by the media that we must add to that list of trailblazers the name Brandon Jennings.
For those of you who are blissfully unaware--content to pass your time pondering gasoline prices and home foreclosures--Jennings is this week's Greatest Basketball Player Ever, and he was going to stoop to showcase his game at the University of Arizona during the upcoming season before moving on to the NBA the following year.
For the past couple of years, Jennings has been plying his trade at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, a thinly disguised prep-basketball factory that stockpiles players from all over the country and then plays a Harlem Globetrotters-like schedule. Jennings signed to play for the UA, which has a well-deserved reputation for developing guards (especially those of the point variety) and sending them off to the NBA. All that was left were the formalities of filling out the paperwork and then getting a rather mediocre score on the SAT.
You'd have to figure that somebody who spent two years at a place called "Oak Hill Academy" would have no trouble passing the SAT. But Jennings biffed the test, so he had to take it again. The second time, he passed, but by too much. The service that oversees the test red-flagged him because of an improvement that fell far outside the norm. (I'm waiting for eBay to have for sale a fake ID with the name "Brandon Jennings" and the picture of an Asian girl on it, certified to have been used only once.)
He then took it a third time, hoping to get a score that landed north of "You stink!" but south of "Yeah, right!" While he waited for those results to arrive, somebody in his posse hit upon a way to circumvent the entire process and get paid at the same time. Be ready; the trailblazing stuff is coming up shortly.
The NBA currently has a rule that says a player can't be drafted until at least a year after his graduating class has left high school. It used to be four years, but then a guy named Spencer Haywood, who was once married to Iman and later got booted from the NBA for drug use, successfully challenged the rule under the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Meanwhile, the NFL has had a three-year rule in place for decades that the courts can't touch, because it's part of the agreement negotiated by management and the players' union. NFL players understand that it is not only in their best interest to keep players who are too young out of their league; it is also in the league's best interest regarding the product they place before the public.
A few years back, the NBA tried to copy the NFL, but the best they could negotiate was a one-year waiting period. Some players' unions act like their sole function is to disagree with whatever management proposes. The geniuses in the NBA union couldn't see that a two-year waiting period would add another lucrative year to the careers of several of their members and make the NBA a better overall league.
This has led to the ugly phenomenon of the one-and-done college player, like that Jerryd What's-His-Name who scowled his way through one season last year for the Wildcats. Jennings had already made it clear that he would follow the same path, but then came the SAT debacle. So now he's going to bypass college altogether and spend that one year playing in Europe--thus the trailblazing designation.
A lot of former and current European players think he'll fail, and a lot of college fans are hoping that he will. I contend that he already has, showing himself to be a one-dimensional clod obsessed with money and nothing else. Cheering him on is his entourage, consisting of a mother, a lawyer and a sleazy basketball "promoter."
I sure hope Lute Olson got the opportunity to tell Jennings to take his sorry ass on down the road.
What really gripes me about this are the sportswriters, craving to be seen as hip, who claim that he has a "right" to earn a living in his chosen field. Really? Can someone come right out of school and be an astronaut or a lawyer or a doctor? For that matter, you can't come right out of high school and be a plumber or a cop or a carpenter. There are lots and lots of occupations that place reasonable restrictions and requirements on would-be participants. Why should something as trivial as basketball be above all that?
I really don't care what happens to him. I wish somewhere along the line, he had been introduced to the word "no." Or "know." Meanwhile, observers will be watching to see if it's a one-time deal or the start of a trend.
There's still hope, however. In a New York Times article on Jennings, another prep star was asked if he'd consider spending that one year in Europe, and he said with a smile, "My mom would never allow it."