by Jack Maidment
He is too thin and too short to make it. His shot is broken. He shouldn’t have gone to Italy.
If there is one consistent throughout the whole of humanity, it is hating. No matter what you do, somebody somewhere will find reason to hate: you should have said this, you shouldn’t have done that.
Along with politicians, sportsmen have to deal with more than their fair share of negativity. The reasons for this are many, although jealousy is always a prominent factor, as is annoyance.
Annoyance is normally the cause of haters in high places, especially in sports. Cue Brandon Jennings.
Every other player, post NBA age restrictions, has gone through at least one year of college before entering into the draft or heading elsewhere in search of a career in professional basketball.
That is the road you take to get to the League. Or at least it was until Jennings’ college plans went awry. His choice to head to Europe for a year riled those in authority because not only did he buck (no pun) tradition but he also highlighted the unspoken trade off that occurs when basketball players are effectively forced to go to college.
Is it possible to be a student and a basketball player? Of course, but not everybody is built for education and expecting everybody to hit the same academic targets to play ball results in the cloak and dagger scandals that rise to the media’s attention: suspect test results are to be expected especially when a few points in a test can be the difference between having Derrick Rose on the floor or not.
Brandon Jennings took the path less travelled and in so doing invited criticism to follow his career: for every story about him blazing a trail overseas there were two or three villainising his decision to skip the States.
So when his year playing for Lottomatica Virtus Roma was more mediocre than amazing, the wolves dined out. Statistics of 5.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists apparently showed how unwise he had been leaving the comfort of America.
Such criticism failed to take into account the person behind the media entity. Regardless of the $1.65 million contract, Jennings was a teenager living in an entirely alien setting playing a type of basketball which he had never experienced before.
It didn’t help that his coach responded to pressure from the front office by cutting his playing time.
Because of all of this Jennings entered his name in the 2009 NBA Draft unsure of when his name would be called, if at all. The fact that he wasn’t in the arena when the Milwaukee Bucks picked him 10th overall speaks volumes.
But picked he was and, regardless of his path to get there, he was a lottery pick for an NBA franchise, a franchise that may hand him the keys to the car given the strength of his performances in Summer League.
14.6 points, 8.2 assists and 3.6 steals through a 4 – 1 record tells us infinitely more than we learnt from an entire year in Italy.
A player whose pass first style and penchant for the flashy will endear him to fans all around the NBA, Jennings has arrived.
Haters will remain constant regardless. Ear plugs have never been a better investment.