Guard sidesteps NCAA hypocrisy


Brandon Jennings today should be concerned only with signing a professional basketball contract worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, complete with a plush apartment and an expensive ride. He should be dreaming about hip European culture, of perhaps enjoying a nice bruschetta outside some cafe after practice.

He shouldn't doubt his decision for a Venice second. Whether his next team resides closer to the Roman Coliseum or Arc de Triomf or some other historical landmark abroad, his choice to skip playing college for a season and instead prepare for next year's NBA Draft by making loads of cash while trying to defend older and bigger and stronger guys named Giuliano makes perfect sense for the only person who matters. Him.

Jennings isn't wrong for wanting to leave. It's a ludicrous system at home that needs fixing.

Arizona plays at UNLV on Dec. 20, and the Wildcats will not be led at point guard by Jennings. Nor should they be. Hypocrisy is an infuriating characteristic, one Jennings refused to display throughout the entire process. Good for him. The NBA and NCAA could learn something.

Jennings doesn't want to go to school, now or before he took a college standardized entrance exam for the third time (results pending and yet now meaningless). He has a skill set good enough to be ranked No. 1 in the country at his position coming out of high school and wants to get paid for it.

Why is it no one seems to blink when teenage singers and actors pursue dreams over dorms, but every ounce of pompous, self-righteous fury appears when an athlete follows a similar path?

It is estimated Miley Cyrus could be worth a billion dollars by age 20. What, the Disney star should forfeit such earning potential to major in theater? Has anyone suggested David Archuleta immediately leave the "American Idol" tour, cease recording his first album and risk losing millions of dollars for the excitement of visiting college campuses over the summer? Come on.

Jennings is about to learn another country's traditions and language and history because the NBA two years ago introduced a rule that stated players had to be out of high school for at least one calendar year and be 19 before becoming eligible for the league's draft.

It essentially has proven a statute with the teeth of Nemo, more than ever establishing a one-and-done option in college as the route most premier preps choose, a preposterous alternative when you consider a player must be eligible for only one semester to play his freshman season.

That last part obviously doesn't bother the archaic NCAA, whose officials amazingly still can stand at a Final Four with a straight face and praise many of the leading players as student-athletes.

O.J. Mayo will debut for Memphis when the NBA Summer League opens here Friday, a kid who in one year at Southern California allegedly accepted all sorts of improper benefits in the ways of cash and gifts from some sleazy go-between of an agent. But whether Mayo did anything wrong -- and none of the accusations has been definitively proven -- it is not a position Jennings ever will find himself in.

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

The frustration for Olson and his team should be over losing such a terrific player, but any coach (and more than a few from Top-25 programs have voiced their high-and-mighty opinions) who questions Jennings' financial motives should be laughed right out of his country club membership and courtesy car.

Coaches chase better deals for themselves as police would a getaway car. There might not be a more self-indulgent group in all of college athletics. Why shouldn't an elite athlete be given the same opportunity?

There is obvious risk to Jennings competing against more experienced and mature players in Europe, a slight chance he gets overwhelmed and slips to a level NBA teams might not feel as cozy about him as they would had he played next season in the Pacific-10 Conference.

But it's his decision to make and one that will hopefully encourage others in a comparable spot to follow.

It's better than playing some disingenuous game of charades for a year at a university the player doesn't want to attend and one that could use his scholarship for a person serious about the student part of being a student-athlete.

For his part, Brandon Jennings wants no part of the one-and-done sham. He just wants to get paid.

You know, like all of us.

Ed Graney's column is published Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-4618 or egraney@reviewjournal.com.

 

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