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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Prized hoop recruit Jennings chooses Europe

    Scripted across Brandon Jenning’s back, surrounded by six dollar signs, is the phrase “”Young Money.””

    And that’s exactly what the former UA basketball recruit opted to grab – six figures – by playing professional basketball overseas rather than in Tucson.

    Jennings, a five-star point guard from the prestigious Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, became the first American high school basketball player to bypass college with his decision to sign a lucrative contract with Rome-based Pallacanestro Virtus Roma in the Italian league.

    The unprecedented move will allow the 18-year-old Jennings to be eligible for the 2009 NBA Draft by fulfilling the controversial NBA age requirements – being 19 years old and a year removed from his final year of high school.

    “”I guess they want to make me the icon there,”” Jennings told “”They’re real excited about me coming to work for them. They know the deal. They know what they’re getting in and feel comfortable about the whole situation.””

    His decision came after weeks of publicized speculation regarding Jennings’ interest in Europe. The class of 2008’s top-ranked point guard, according to ESPN and, spurred an immense amount of attention over the summer while awaiting the results of his third SAT exam, which would determine his NCAA eligibility.

    Jennings took a third SAT test after the NCAA flagged his second test due to the drastic jump in scores from his first test.

    His third test results were delayed twice, during which time he decided to play in Europe. Ultimately, Jennings’s would not have qualified, his mother Alice Knox told Knox and 13-year-old son Terrence Phillps have both moved with Jennings to Italy.

    “”If he has the opportunity right now to make $800,000 from a team and get a shoe contract and make more than $1 million before he even goes into the (2009 NBA) draft, then why wouldn’t he do that?”” Kelly Williams, Jennings’ advisor, told

    Virtus Roma General Manager Dejan Bodiroga “”had a comprehensive plan for Jennings that included specific training and education, tutoring programs . . . as well as media training,”” said Jennings’ attorney, Jeffrey Valle, in a statement.

    Added Jennings’ advisor Sonny Vaccaro: “”This opportunity will enable Brandon to compete at a very high level in Europe and is also an environment that he and his family will find comfortable.””

    The Compton, Calif., native signed a three-year, multimillion-dollar contract – with a buyout option that allows Jennings to leave for the NBA after one season – after as many as seven European teams contacted Jennings’ representatives, Vaccaro said. But Virtus Roma “”moved the quickest, and Brandon didn’t want it to drag on.””

    “”I’m so excited,”” Jennings told “”I can’t believe that it happened so fast. I remember Sonny (Vaccaro) talking about it, and then I called him and it happened so fast already. I just

    can’t wait.””

    Jennings signed his letter of intent to play for UA head coach Lute Olson on April 24, 2007, after verbally retracting his commitment to play for the University of Southern California.

    “”We’re disappointed in terms of Brandon’s decision, but we want to wish him the best of luck,”” Olson said in a statement. “”We hope that things turn out well for him in the future.””

    Olson later responded to Jennings’ situation by telling the Los Angeles Times that he would not recruit anymore “”one-and-done”” prospects – those players who would likely leave for the NBA Draft after their freshmen season.

    “”It’s a situation now that if someone’s a ‘one-and-done,’ we’re not going to pursue them anymore, no way,”” Olson told The Los Angeles Times.

    Ex-Wildcat Jerryd Bayless became a ‘one-and-done’ player after forfeiting his eligibility by declaring for the 2008 NBA Draft after his freshman season. Bayless was selected 11th overall by the Indiana Pacers, but was traded to the Portland Trailblazers shortly afterward.

    “”Jerryd said all along he wanted to stay here two years,”” Olson said. “”But then you get the agents working on the kids and parents all year. You might have the kid in your controlled environment for some time, but when (outsiders are) on the parents, you have no idea what’s

    going on.””

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