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Brandon Jennings, European Explorer

June 23, 2008 8 comments

compassTo catch you up: recently, it’s been tossed about that top high school recruit, Brandon Jennings, might skip out of his commitment to the University of Arizona and play in Europe, due to some discrepancy in his scores on his SAT attempts:

“It’s something I’m considering now,” Jennings said. “I still want to go to Arizona but if things don’t go right, I’m considering going overseas.”

Jennings said he will get his standardized test results back next Thursday. This is the third time he has taken a standardized test. Jennings said he was red-flagged for a jump in his score from the first to the second test. He said he didn’t know his scores.

“The first time I took it I didn’t try, the second time I did so I had to take it a third time,” Jennings said.

Arizona assistant coach Mike Dunlap said Friday that the staff was well aware that Jennings was looking into playing overseas.

Overseas? No one does that. Like… not in a college?

Brandon Jennings at Oak HillIn Europia?

Now there is a solid idea – the NBA’s age limit is a restriction on young people to earn a wage out of high school. And while I am sure people would like to think that sending these kids to college is extremely helpful for their lives, it’s more of a revenue generator for the umbrella organization (NCAA) and the school that has a “contract” to the player. That contract is spelled out in favorable terms for the school – they provide education, room, board, coaching, and travel. But do those players value those items equally? From all accounts, many players are there to showcase themselves for professional basketball options. The education value is low on their totem pole.

It’s always interesting to see players hustling to get that qualifying score for their college, by the way. Makes me wonder sometimes what their friends and even AAU coaches are doing – you got to qualify to become a star! Or else you become, well, Lenny Cooke. How bad are those high school grades… or how “good” are they?

(And if he does go to college, will the NCAA give an extra long look at his high school and collegiate transcripts? You know, to see if he is really going to that Golf 101 class? To see if he really passed biology?)

So, Brandon Jennings really might go to Europe to ball? From today’s New York Times:

“I think people just develop better over there,” he said. “You’re playing professional ball for a year, you’re playing against guys who are older than you. I’ll constantly be playing basketball 24-7. I don’t have to worry about school and things like that.”

On the surface, that sounds troubling. In reality, forcing talented players who otherwise would be drafted to spend a sham year in college does not advance higher education. The N.C.A.A., the N.B.A. and the union created a class of hired guns.

“For a person that plays ball, our dream is to get to the N.B.A.,” Jennings said. “College is like, O.K., we’ll do this one year, but our real mind-set is that we’re trying to get to the league, take care of our families. They’re making us do college so we feel like, Let’s do one year, go to class half the time.”

Jennings could play a role in redirecting the pipeline that carries N.B.A.-ready talent from high school to college, in which the best players are forced to mark time for a season. There are not many options.

A player could go to the N.B.A. development league. He would be eligible to play in the league because he is a high school graduate, but he couldn’t be called up to an N.B.A. roster. He would become eligible for the N.B.A. draft the next season.

Jennings will receive his test scores on Thursday. He’ll huddle with his mother, Alice, to determine whether to go to Arizona for the obligatory year or go to Europe to begin his pro career.

What’ll it be: Spain or Paris, or Tucson? Being compensated —half a million to a million Euros, or receiving room, board, tuition and a telephone book of N.C.A.A. regulations?

He would come into the N.B.A. with money and maturity after having lived abroad for a season or two. This is true education, the kind of education an elite college basketball or football player will be hard pressed to receive inside forced study halls, where the primary objective is to stay eligible.

Brandon Jennings flat topHe’ll probably get into Arizona, and this commentary on playing somewhere else might be a smart shot of early media exposure/ spectacle. It don’t matter. I love this. As, of course, does Ball in Europe. There is an issue with the cultural difference. Moreover, the lack of worldliness that many Americans have is likely magnified by playing in the high school basketball bubble, where a top player is surrounded by other top players who know little about the outside world and coaches who obviously focus more on the jump shot than on life skills.

Brandon’s gonna have to take his moms with him. Even then, that is going to be rough. But it would be a bold move to take the risk and take that road less traveled, playing against better competition. And Jennings can feature it on his website/ fan site.

Will he get enough playing time? Is he physically developed to play on the top levels of Euroleague (he is 6′, 165 lbs, a little light), or will he need a couple of years to make his mark? Will people think that the flat-top do is back? Will Paul Shirley meet him and call him a moron in his next book (Which will be okay, it’ll just mean that Shirley’s jealous and bitter)?

But, as Juan Carlos Navarro proves, sometimes the money’s good, or even better than the NBA’s rookie scale. Cash money has a lot more value, at least in the short run, than some fluff classes and a second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament. Coupled with the better competition, and the fact that most NBA teams scout Europe heavily… go for it, player.


College Fast Break makes note of how some commenters (on the ESPN article) are remarking about how “dumb” he is. The kid is probably not a moron. The problem is the differing scores on the SAT test, one qualifying, one not qualifying.

And for a young man who has not been preparing for the test, answering the questions is more “cram” than it is “knowledge”. Some highly intelligent people have trouble with the test. And without preparation, those folks get some terrible scores.

Moreover, the SAT is not the only measure of intelligence, though those scores are treated as such. The guy is a point guard, which requires different intelligences – spatial reasoning, for one. If he hasn’t been planning on actually graduating college, one could see how the SAT is, frankly, a waste of his damned time.

Good luck to Brandon Jennings and I would love to see this happen. College ball is a farce for many “student”-athletes, and everyone knows it. Players have to realize that there is a world of basketball out there, countries to see.

But if the European coaches start coming to AAU events, they need to remember that most indoor venues are no-smoking.

Sports Tip Drill 06.16.08

June 16, 2008 2 comments

Me? I’ve been summering it up and welcoming expatriate New Yorkers, watching the trees twist in the wind when it storms, and watching Euro 2008. Are you NOT watching this? This tournament is reminding me what good futbol/ soccer can be – tense, ridiculous, with leads just hanging on a string.

We were cheering for Turkey (there’s Turkish history on my fiancee’s side, and I didn’t like the cut of the Czechs’ jibs), but while they were fighting to tie the game up, they gave up a second goal. All was lost… until it was not. The first goal was nice, but the second (how the keeper didn’t hang on to that ball was beyond me. Or a testament to being tired.) and third were the comeback we never thought we would see. Absolutely incredible. I haven’t said that many holy sh*ts since… well, it’s been a long time.

edit: Deadspin’s narrative about the game. I can go on for days about how incredible this was.

(I can’t embed the video from MySoccerMedia, so enjoy video highlights of Turkey vs. Czech via link, please.)

Only thing: the freaking goalie makes a save and, to the side, shoves an opposing player, getting kicked out with a red card. In the 91st minute. So he’s out for the next game. Nice work, dude.

+ Top NYC guard Lance Stephenson lists his prospective schools as Kansas, UCLA, USC… and possibly St. John’s, in the way that vowels sometimes include “Y”.

+ This is how South Florida creates a program: another guy with eligibility problems in Gus Gilchrist, former Maryland recruit… who was a Virginia Tech recruit before that… will now transfer to USF. He’s highly regarded, and a great get for Stan Heath:

As a senior at Progressive Christian, Gilchrist averaged 22.3 points and 10.3 rebounds. He initially signed early with Virginia Tech in November 2006, but opted out of his letter of intent because of the tragic April 2007 shootings. He enrolled in Maryland in January 2008, but the Atlantic Coast Conference ruled Gilchrist would not be eligible until January 2009 and would lose a year of eligibility because he had previously signed with another ACC school. This decision prompted him to leave Maryland.

“No one ever told him about it [the transfer rule],” Woody said. “They sprung it on him. He could have gone to any school in the country after Virginia Tech.”

Maryland’s appeals to have Gilchrist eligible this fall were denied, so that’s why Gilchrist left Maryland, Woody said.

Woody said USF would begin the process Monday to appeal to the NCAA for a hardship waiver that would allow Gilchrist to play this season at USF. If the appeal is not successful, Gilchrist would not be able to play at USF until the 2009-10 season.

+ Costs to Indiana University from the Kelvin Sampson basketball violations.

+ Voluntary restrictions for college coaches with respect to letters of intent for pre-high school athletes? Myles Brand finds them untoward, and the National Association of Basketball Coaches is looking for a voluntary ban on signing kids who can’t drive to basketball commitments.

Meniscus repair+ West Virginia forward Joe Alexander is staying in the draft (where he can’t beat up on St. John’s anymore). Kansas State forward Bill Walker hurt an already-injured knee, but wants to stay in the draft. Jeff Goodman reports that it’s a partial tear in the meniscus. What’s that, you ask? To the right is a picture of a knee.

+ Ray Allen left after last night’s NBA Finals game after hearing learning about a health issue involving one of his children, possibly diabetes. Good luck, Ray.

+ Rashard Mendenhall has some beef with Ron Zook and the Illinois football program. H/T to AOL Fanhouse.

+ Zach Randolph and his entourage get into a fight in Portland. *Smacks Head*

+ Becky Hammon is playing for Russia in the Olympics, though she has no ancestral ties.

+ Willie Randolph might be safe from being fired, but Mr. “I can fix Victor Zambrano in 10 minutes” Rick Peterson might be looking into unemployment benefits.

Sports Links 06.06.08

June 6, 2008 1 comment

The hurried, unvetted version.

Derrick Rose as the new Stephon Marbury? I like the comparison, in a sense; I didn’t see a lot of passing from Mr. Rose, and I don’t really know how to evaluate a player in the dribble-drive system which looks like… advanced streetball to me. He’s no Chris Paul, and if saw Chris Paul in college, the only worry would be if he would be marginalized because he was small (and not a great shooter), that dude could PASS.

– Please watch the Coco Crisp/ James Shields fight (third video in this post from Out In Center Field), because that fight is one of the better ones I have seen: Crisp takes umbrage with a hit that he kinda deserved, he avoids a pretty solid-looking punch from Shields, then the Rays Dioner Navarro pulls down Crisp. Jonny Gomes gets some blows in and then Akinori Iwamura, who took the rough slide from Crisp that escalated the beef, gets in some sucker punches. I don’t know what Carl Crawford’s doing there, though.

– Maryland’s basketball program is in turmoil. Catch up here.

Adam Zagoria and Dick “Hoops” Weiss also have picked up on Phil Wait’s commitment to St. John’s men’s basketball program. Even with no official announcement… looks like he’s coming.

– Instead of taking a whole lot of lumps in Bryant’s first season in Division I, Bryant University coach Max Good decides to take on an assistant coaching job at Loyola Marymount in LA, working under Bill Bayno.

– Possible white bias in the NBA finals? Hey, if Dan Engber wrote it, it must be true (he’s from the old HS, after all).

And Chris Bosh’s interviews at the NBA Finals for the Jay Leno show:

Upbringing?

June 2, 2008 Comments off

I hate to see a young player get caught in a scandal; and OJ Mayo’s business recently got put on blast, as you probably know. A member of his “entourage”, Robert Guillory, told ESPN that Mayo has taken money from a runner (intermediary) for an agent or agency group, so that when he finished his freshman year of college (and decided to go pro as everyone knows he would) Mayo would sign with that agency group. Yes, that’s kind of sleazy. And yes, Mayo shouldn’t take the money, because it’s supposed to be against the rules.

When Mayo got outed, everyone had an opinion, and wanted to attribute blame. Here, blame should have a strong corrective function – to make the public aware of whose “fault” it is, and therefore give us all a villain in this crime.

Some writers, like the ever-opinionated (and that’s a good thing) Gary Parrish used the “upbringing” canard. Okay; upbringing certainly has something to do with what a young player does and how he’s on the take. But the opposing ideal that Parrish mentions? Kevin Love, another one-and-done college player out of UCLA. His uncle and cousins are members of the Beach Boys; Love is white; and his father is a retired basketball player and they’re not poor.

Mayo, on the other hand, has not apparently had much family around him.

Parrish intimates that this kind of relationship that the older man (Guillory) had with Mayo could be prevented by simply having parents around. Like the players with a parent around aren’t getting gifts? Does Parrish think the gifts stop with the free shoes that every high end player gets just for playing on an Amateur Athletic Union team? How is it these kids can travel, if many of them are poor, anyway? It’s certainly, certainly not just Mayo.

Stephen A Smith, in a fit (or return to?) solid writing, makes the point: What’s the big deal?

To me, a big deal is the player who continues to be violent off the court, the kind of player who steals from others or otherwise commits criminal acts. Or the player receiving money from gamblers to shave points or throw games. This whole player-receiving-payments? The kind of thing that happened at St. John’s? And at Ohio State? And at numerous other schools, whether publicized or not?

Certainly, I don’t want to see players taken advantage of. Making it rainThere has to be some way of educating players on how to make and keep their stacks of loot. And the ability of boosters to pay a player has an effect in bringing top level talent to schools. But if the school is not involved? If it’s just the player? The NCAA should get involved when the allegations come to light, but we should not all pretend like we’re all shocked about it.

It happens.

Dudes are getting paid. It’s unsavory. But it’s not an example of the poorest of poor character. It’s not high character, either. But it is what it is; a part of the game.


In related news, Michael Beasley has been often tacked with the same issues – “character questions, “upbringing.” Jeffrey Martin of the Wichita Eagle writes a good article which sums up a lot of what’s open knowledge about Beasley – he’s a freaking kid! He’s 19! He’s not yet a man (Coach Gundy video)! But he’s not a menace to society. He doesn’t pay attention to authority figures… like so many other people. He tagged some bumpers. He’s just a goofball. How old do you want him to be, to paraphrase Beasley himself?


And here is private investigator Michael Buckner, who would like to make money assisting the BCS conference schools in vetting their choices of players:

A Division I university has time and resources for only so much. A typical school might welcome 200 new student-athletes on campus each fall. The colleges ensure each academically qualifies, but most don’t do thorough background checks on every recruit. That’s part of the reason Maryland offered a basketball scholarship to Tyree Evans last month without knowing the extent of his criminal history. (After much scrutiny and the revelation of five criminal charges, Evans withdrew his application last week.) In cases like Evans’, all you might need is a computer, Internet access and about 10 minutes to pull up court records.

In Mayo’s case, his circle of suspect characters had been noted in media reports for a couple of years. Buckner said if the information and allegations that have been reported prove to be true, the circumstances surrounding Mayo’s missteps could have been discovered long before ESPN cameras played gotcha journalism and long before Mayo had even put on a USC jersey.

“Our services will provide the USCs of the world a resource where we can go out and do the legwork, the proper due diligence of these blue-chip, high-profile prospects,” Buckner said. “That way, the prospect and his or her family are cleared of any type of rumors or innuendo out there, the school is protected, and if there’s anything that comes up later on, they can say, ‘Hey, we did everything within our power to make sure we complied with NCAA rules.'”

It’s too early to tell whether schools will take advantage of this new service, but Buckner said he plans on blanketing the remaining Division I universities with information next week.

What will this service entail? It will have to include more than legal information, for a player like OJ Mayo has never been convicted of or accused of anything (though the referee incident in Mayo’s high school game (video) indicates a problem… though the ref clearly flopped). Will it delve into the “value structure?” Who the parents are? Their ability to be financially compromised? Whether anyone in the player’s circle knows “Worldwide Wes?” And of course, who pays for this work? Will this be public? Semi-public?

And a strong reason why this will never make money: one private source will know which players are getting extra gifts (and phone calls) from schools, who has boosters looking into getting so and so’s parents a job conveniently near campus… the schools don’t want to stop all that, do they? Because it’ll affect which players come to that school.


But Buckner couldn’t have helped Gary Williams and Maryland with vetting Tyree Evans who recently asked out of his letter of intent to Maryland’s basketball team. The information on Evans was out there, from when Huggy-Bear wanted to recruit him to Kansas State, to his statutory rape arrest with teammates when he was a Cincinnati recruit, and on and on. More information on Evans here, including an excellent Luke Winn piece in Sports Illustrated. Because issues or not, a coach with a dearth of talent, even a 600 win coach, knows that you’re only as good as your last few years. And Williams’ recruiting and on-court results have been mediocre in recent seasons; a coach will take whatever steps necessary to bring in high-end talents.

“Upbringing” be damned. Relationships be damned. The only thing that keeps a coach employed is winning.

Sports Links, 5.16.08

May 16, 2008 Comments off

J'Mison Morgan+Gary Parrish on the new style of recruiting: pounce on verbally committed recruits when there’s a coaching change through the AAU and high school coaches, aka the back channels.

+Allegations that Kansas’ Darrell Arthur shouldn’t have been eligible due to changed grades in high school, which could mean Kansas would be in danger of losing basketball title… in the most silly of worlds. Yeah, I’m sure no other school has players who’d had their high school grades changed. I know it’s hard to tell on a blog post, but that’s sarcasm.

+Dear athletes: how many times do I have to say this? Wear a $%^#@!!! CONDOM.

+Billy Wagner sure likes to talk. And in New York, talk is taken seriously. Will the other players stick around for the tough questions after being called out (again) by the team’s closer?

+The New York Times is going to love the quotable D’Antoni. He’s intelligent, political, contemplative, contrary, argumentative, and competitive; he’s a great news story.

+More on Kevin Parrom: Adam Zagoria indicates the incident was a fight about the team in general. Here’s hoping he goes to a prep or Catholic school with a decent relationship with St. John’s.

+A South African double-amputee, Oscar Pistorius (“the fastest man on no legs“), can compete to qualify for this summer’s Olympic games with his carbon fiber legs (below the knee). I bet he’ll be stripped of any medals if he gets to the games and wins. Especially if the bionic man sound can be heard on the track.

Video of Pistorius:

Sports Links 5.14.08

May 14, 2008 Comments off

+ Mets make moves, designating Nelson Figueroa and Jorge Sosa for assignment (Figueroa plans to go to the minors if he clears waivers, Sosa might declare free agency instead), and sending Angel Pagan to the DL. Coming up (or already up): reliever Matt Wise, starting pitcher Claudio Vargas (what’s with the ex-Brewers?), and Fernando Tatis. We don’t have anyone better than Fernando Tatis in the minors?

Jason Giambi+ Hank Steinbrenner thinks his team’s not playing hard enough.

+ D’Antoni wants to trade Marbury as part of a package for Leandro Barbosa and Boris “I don’t date American women, I have them” Diaw. Great trade, if the Suns are at gunpoint.

+ Soon-to-be senior high school basketball star (and St. John’s target) Kevin Parrom is arrested after an altercation with his coach. There’s more here than meets the eye, if only for the fact that this didn’t need to get into the paper, and the player didn’t have to get arrested if the coach didn’t want that to happen.

+ You can’t advertise your Larry Bird’s former home as the “Legend of French Lick Resort” and get away with it… Larry Bird hopes.

+ Arizona State eliminates wrestling, swimming, and tennis. It was too hot for the last two anyway. Article includes complaining about Title IX, roll eyes and move on.

+ Any post about the old WUniversity, even if it’s about track and field, is welcome in my blog.

+ A WHOA, BACK UP post on OJ Mayo asking some questions and stepping back from calling Mayo some kind of criminal deviant. The angle is interesting as the major news outlets are busy looking for culprits, as Rush the Court calls out the media. Whatever happened to investigative reporting? Whatever the outcome of the Mayo case, this kind of influence peddling will continue. Why would it stop if the only way to get at the info is a jilted snitch?

+ Joe Montana’s eldest son Nate Montana is going to walk on at Notre Dame this fall. He didn’t play much in high school, adopting the game late, but he’s still Son of Montana. You’d think he’d choose a more competitive school, though. John Elway’s son Jack will be suiting up for Arizona State, by the way. Does Jim Kelly have a kid? Joe Theismann? Warren Moon?

+ Gene Doping? Yikes. hat tip to The Sports Economist.

+ AND, What do you associate with various brands? The Wall Street Journal talks about the Brand Tags site.

Rating Coaches

May 12, 2008 Comments off

Fox Sports columnist Jeff Goodman recently posted his list of top college basketball assistants, polling head coaches, assistants, and those close to assistants. His names are broken into BCS conferences and mid-major conferences (would Xavier and Gonzaga have landed in the mid-major area? We don’t know, none of their assistant coaches were on the list). There are a few former head coaches (Larry Shyatt (Florida), Joe Dooley (Kansas), Donnie Daniels (UCLA)), some up and comers, some people with pedigree/ former player resumes (but no major ex-pros), and some guys who started out on the high school level.

This list, however, focuses on recruiting achievements. For an assistant coach, that is a somewhat quantifiable metric – how well a coach can lock down a recruit who is interested in their school. That focus, of course, doesn’t necessarily tell us how that coach is on a comparative level – in a good situation with a good product (some combination of a competitive team, tv exposure, playing time, an attractive campus, big booty hoes, a well-regarded head coach), many people can recruit the names we come to know in college ball. When he was hired, St. John’s coach Norm Roberts was advertised as the man who brought Russell Robinson to Kansas and got a verbal from Charlie Villanueva.*

Being associated with great college basketball names will get an assistant coach a job. But should it? Those recruiting achievements are not the coach’s alone; they belong to the head coach, to the quality and style of play, and perhaps to the institution. Believing that these recruiting wins are the coach’s alone is questionable; and the game isn’t won on the number of 4 and 5 star Rivals or Scout.com recruits a coach gets. It certainly helps, but that’s not the end-all.

Answering some of this is Yet Another Basketball Blog‘s Coach Ratings by Dan Hanner. Admittedly, I don’t know all of ratings’ methodology. For example, the recruiting ratings might be from the aforementioned basketball player rating sites or some other source. And does this model account for players who have transferred (probably not, since he does not penalize for players going pro early)? How does one measure expected wins? What if talent is overrated? Otherwise, this is a sharp look at what ingredients constitute what we think of as a good coach. The ratings for recruiting and coaching come from regression analysis of the impact on talent on wins. The main point is that the numbers give a comparative look at a coach’s recruiting and regular season performance at each school.

Some light numbers, and of course chatter about St. John’s, after the jump.
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