Brandon Jennings: The Other Side of the Double-Nickel

E. Spencer Kyte@@spencerkyteSenior Analyst INovember 17, 2009

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 03:  Brandon Jennings #3 of the Milwaukee Bucks brings the ball upcourt against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on November 3, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Bucks 83-81. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Before we begin, a tip of the cap to Hadarii Jones for his outstanding piece "Pivot Points: Brandon Jennings' Success Confirms a New Path to the NBA."

Reading his article inspired me to write this supplemental aside to the Jennings story. This isn't intended to take away from Hadarii's piece, just present an alternate take on the early success of the young Buck.

The early success of Brandon Jennings is astounding, no matter how you look at it.

Two nights ago, the Bucks point guard of the future served notice that the future is now, dropping 55 points on the Golden State Warriors and surpassing the team record for point scored by a rookie.

The former record holder? Some guy you might have heard of named Lew Alcindor...

But before we start handing out the Rookie of the Year Award, inviting Jennings to Dallas for the 2010 All-Star Game and stumping for the NBA to abolish the age limit rule, a little patience and further examination is certainly warranted in this writer's eyes.

Coming out of high school, Brandon Jennings was the 2008 High School Basketball Player of the Year and destined for greatness in the eyes of many scouts. Though they questioned his jump shot a little, the kid who rocked a high top fade at the McDonald's All-American Game was the consensus top freshman prospect in the game.

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Though his year in Europe and lack of consistent playing time certainly hurt his stock somewhat, this wasn't a kid who came out of nowhere to drop 55. Is it still super-impressive? Absolutely, but it doesn't prove the Age Limit Rule futile.

Next up, it's November 16.

While Jennings early season totals are certainly outstanding, he's played exactly seven games in his NBA career. Though he is shooting the lights out now and averaging more than a quarter century, seven games does not a season make. If he's still delivering 25-plus on 50 percent shooting in January, gimme a call.

Chances are you won't need the number, because this is the National Basketball Association and teams pay attention to what their competitors are doing. After a torrid start like this, coaches won't be offering up the open looks Jennings is currently receiving.

Now that he's shown a knack for knocking down open jumpers, teams will be spending more time worrying about his shot than focusing on his passing skills and keeping him out of the paint. Double teams will increase, defensive specialist will be employed and Jennings stats will suffer as a result.

Besides, it's not like teams have another offensive weapon to worry about on the Bucks roster as long as Michael Redd remains injured.

Still, Jennings start is tremendous and deserving of the attention and accolades he's currently receiving.

However, the success of Brandon Jennings isn't evidence enough to rescind the NBA Age Restriction.

For every Brandon Jennings who certainly could have come to the NBA and been successful directly from high school, there is a Korleone Young. A Gerald Green. An Ousmane Cisse, Ricky Sanchez, Leon Smith, James Lang, or Ndudi Ebi.

Even many of the most successful prep-to-pros players took a year or two to become acclimated to the game at the professional level. While LeBron James excelled right away, Kobe Bryant struggled, as did Tracy McGrady, and Rashard Lewis.

Others spent multiple years learning the game from the friendly confines of the bench, collecting small amounts of playing time. Though he blossomed into an All-Star in Indiana, Jermaine O'Neal was nothing more than a role player in Portland, while Al Jefferson barely saw the court as a Celtic.

Players like Sebastian Telfair, Robert Swift, and Andrew Bynum could have easily used the year they spent getting splinters in the NBA learning at top collegiate programs under proven and skilled educators like Rick Pitino, Roy Williams, or Tubby Smith.

Additionally, a college education certainly never hurt anyone.

Yes, there are exceptions to every rule and Brandon Jennings may very well be one; a truly gifted player blessed with the ability to excel on the highest level immediately.

But that makes Jennings all the more special, not proof that the NBA Age Restriction needs to be abolished.

While many in favor of removing the rule argue that these kids—and make no mistake about it, they are still kids when they come out of high school—deserve the right to earn a living, be it as a plumber or a point guard, if these players are truly as talented as everyone believes, the NBA will still be there 365 days later.

Yes, they could suffer a catastrophic injury and miss out on potential millions in that one year spent on a college campus, but the chances are probably on par with getting into a serious traffic accident and suffering the same fate.

Quick: name the last college star to fail to make it to the NBA because of an injury?

Don't worry, I couldn't think of an answer either.

And while the point made about players like John Wall who will surely spend a single season as a member of John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats is certainly valid, is that not better than the course being pursued by Jeremy Tyler?

The desire to chase fame and fortunate and have your name on the back of an authentic jersey at your local Foot Locker has suddenly replaced earning a basic education.

Those same catastrophic injuries that could occur during the unfairly-imposed one year in college could certainly occur in Israel, Italy, or Indiana during the first practice of a player's career. Then what?

Again, the NBA isn't going anywhere and college isn't that bad, especially if we're being honest with each other about the amount of effort put forth by some student-athletes who are simply putting in time.

Brandon Jennings is having an incredible start to his NBA career, and one that he potentially could have had a year ago.

But just because Jennings is succeeding today doesn't mean that every kid with a dream and a jumpshot should be given the opportunity to follow in his shoes straight out of high school.

If you don't believe me, ask Gerald Green.

Or Leon Smith, Ousmane Cisse, James Lang, or Korleone Young.

They were high school stars too.


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