The thing about Brandon Jennings is, you truly couldn’t come up with a better foil for college basketball purists looking to tout the importance of a college education. He’s cocky, he’s loud, his entrance at the NBA Draft was unintentionally hilarious, he got into all kinds of trouble with social media, and when he “blazed a trail” and skipped college to go to Europe, he did so with undeniably mixed results (or at least statistics). He’s a ready-made cautionary tale for what happens when hubris goes unchecked, or, to put it in modern terms, when swagger gets too crazy.
There’s only one problem: his game doesn’t fit the mold. If Brandon Jennings were Tyreke Evans on the basketball court, then maybe. But he’s not; if anything, he’s Ricky Rubio from Compton, with a fade instead of a floppy hair. He’s impossibly quick and long, but matches those skills with natural passing instincts that most point guards just don’t possess. He’s so creative with the ball it’s ridiculous, and while his game’s still rough around the edges, he still has the chance to help a team.
And ironically enough, where many critics point to his decision to bypass the NCAA as a sign of immaturity (he’d failed to qualify for Arizona), it’s actually indicative of what makes him so intriguing. As I wrote back in June:
Let’s reiterate: this is a kid who left Compton, where he was lionized by everyone around him, and went to Rome, where he was likely subject to all sorts of resentment and added scrutiny from opponents, fans, teammates, and even coaches. At 18 years old, that’s pretty f’ing impressive. There’s just no other way to say it—and to remain levelheaded through it all and play well enough to garner NBA interest is even more so.
I wished the Wizards had drafted him back then, and while there will certainly be some ups-and-downs in Milwaukee this year, I have a feeling that Bucks fans will be pleasantly surprised. Again, he fulfills every aspect of the flashy teenager stereotype—except his game. Someone to keep an eye on.