I love what Brandon Jennings is saying. I love the publicity he has gotten with his words.
Unfortunately, however, he'll be owned by the system.
If the class of 2008's No. 1 prospect gets back a SAT score Thursday that is good enough for him to enroll at Arizona in the fall, he'll head to Tuscon -- if he knows what is best for him.
Jennings has said in the past week that he's considering playing in Europe for a year -- and earning a bundle of cash -- instead of honoring his letter of commitment to be a Wildcat for one season (he has already confirmed that he'll enter the 2009 NBA draft). It's the first time since the NBA's age-limit rule was instituted prior to the 2006 draft that a high-school graduate has considered such an option.
Of course, a big reason for this is that Jennings needs his third go-round at the SAT test to exceed a certain score just to attend Arizona. If that doesn't happen, he's definitely off to Europe and the land of professional basketball.
But the test more than likely will be fine. Jennings had a solid score the second time he took it, but the NCAA didn't allow it because he did so much better than his first time around. Jennings simply said that he tried harder. Whatever the case may be, I expect his score to get him into Arizona.
And I'm pretty certain he'll be playing for Lute Olson in November.
Which is too bad -- it'd be nice to think that college basketball is more than just a one-year feeding system for the NBA's newest stars. If the draft that just happened is any indication, however, that's exactly what it has become.
This isn't to say that college basketball doesn't remain a great sports spectacle. I still love the games, the team play, the madness. But thanks to the NBA's rule, we become enamored with players -- and their respective teams -- one year only to see them declare for the association before spring exams are complete.
Brandon Jennings is the next in line.
I'd love for him to buck the trend, to hop a plane for Madrid or Moscow, to learn the intricacies of the international game before being drafted into the NBA next year. The truth, however, is that he'd gain much more exposure -- and I'm not talking about the sun -- from playing at Arizona as opposed to running with the bulls.
He'd also likely get more playing time, more offensive freedom from Olson and, ultimately, more of an opportunity to shine for NBA scouts. Come next June, Jennings' stock would be higher coming off a year in college, and, thus, his financial future would shine brighter.
Money, money, money. That's what it boils down to.
Jennings doesn't give a hoot about winning for the Wildcats, or impressing the coeds. He has one goal in mind -- to be a star in the NBA. There's one obstacle in his way -- David Stern's age limit. Jennings, and his agent, just have to decide what would be the better stepping stone to the fulfillment of his dream.
The evidence is right in front of them: In the recent 2008 draft, four of the top five picks were one-and-done college players. The lone foreign player in the top 10 -- and one heck of an established player -- went No. 6. In all, a record 10 freshmen were chosen in the first round (and earned guaranteed cash). Four overseas players made the top 30.
In a year, Jennings almost definitely will be a first-round pick regardless of where he laces 'em up this fall. But where he gets drafted on the rookie pay scale is up in the air, and more endorsements tend to find the higher picks.
Welcome to Arizona, Mr. Jennings. No need to attend classes. Just win games and help us sell jerseys. It's been eight seasons since our last Final Four.
That will be the story come November, and Jennings will get fawned over by the college-basketball media -- and rightfully so. Because he'll be gone before they know it.
And when "Brandon Jennings" is called next June in Madison Square Garden, he will be a household name in NBA circles -- a perfect scenario for Stern. He won't be some foreign star whom only the experts have heard of. He'll be one of the next batch of marketable rookies for the association.
As the NBA continues to reap the benefits of its monopolizing rule.