February 25, 2008

First-year Notre Dame Prep (Fitchburg, Mass.) coach Ryan Hurd walked out of the teacher's lounge earlier this fall and was stopped dead in his tracks by what he saw. There was Terrence Jennings, a 6-foot-10 star power forward who had just arrived on campus, fresh off a trip to Wal-Mart and was walking down the hall carrying toilet paper and, curiously, his own toilet seat. When asked what he was doing, Jennings just shrugged and told Hurd, "This is a veteran move, coach. For sure."

"I guess at this point he just doesn't take anything for granted in a new situation," Hurd says. "There are very few surprises for him anymore."

Jennings knows a thing or two about getting comfortable at a new school. Notre Dame Prep is Jennings' sixth school in five years, an odyssey that has taken him from his hometown of Sacramento, Calif., to Georgia to live with his father, to a brief stop in Florida before heading to Charis Prep in Wilson, N.C. Next came a stint at Mt. Zion Academy in Durham, N.C. before finally ending up in Fitchburg, playing for a Notre Dame Prep program that last year featured a similarly well-traveled elite player -- Michael Beasley.

"I've been through a lot as far as traveling goes and everything," said Jennings, who is currently the No. 10 player in the nation in the SI/TAKKLE.com player rankings -- up eight spots from two weeks ago. "People call me the 'traveling man,' but I think I'm in a stable place right now. Stability is very important. You have to be some place where you can compete both on the academic level and with basketball. I think I've found that here."

Through all the transfers and upheaval, the one constant has been Jennings' athleticism on the court. He has rare combination of size and speed, which allows him to routinely grab a rebound on one end of the court, throw an outlet pass to a guard and then beat the opposition down the floor for an easy dunk.

He burst onto the national scene at the Reebok U. event last summer, where he looked, at times, to be the best big man in attendance. The natural comparison, given his style of play and his checkered academic past, is to the Phoenix Suns' Amare Stoudemire, something that Jennings is not entirely comfortable with.

"I really don't pay that much attention to it," Jennings said. "I'm just trying to get better every day so maybe one day I'll be able to play against and hold my own against players like an Amare or a Dwight Howard for sure."

Along with "well-traveled," the most often heard refrain regarding Jennings among scouts is "raw." HoopScoop's Clark Francis saw Jennings play at the Reebok U. event and was immediately taken with him. But he says that he hasn't seen Jennings approach that level of play since.

"He's something of an enigma," Francis said. "He's a good rebounder, runs the floor well, and blocks a lot of shots. But at the same time, you don't always see the same level of desire or effort out of him. I think the comparisons to Amare should stop at the school thing."

Even Hurd admits that when Jennings arrived at Notre Dame, his first inclination defensively was to rely on his athleticism instead of getting in good position, and try just to block everything. That got Jennings plenty of blocked shots, but it also got him into foul trouble often.

"He's getting to the point now where people are beginning to be able to match-up with him size-wise, and that has been an adjustment for him," Hurd said. "But he's very coachable. One of the good things about having so many coaches in his past is no matter what you tell him, most likely one of his previous coach's has said that to him before."

After his dynamic performance at the Reebok U, Jennings received many scholarship offers. Just three weeks after the showcase, he gave a verbal commitment to Maryland, but he soon regretted his decision. A month later he decommitted and eventually signed with Louisville this past fall.

Notre Dame Prep has become a pipeline to Rick Pitino's program, as Louisville sophomore Derrick Caracter finished his high school career there, and Jennings' current teammate Melquan Bolding has also committed to the Cardinals. Jennings and Bolding join a stellar recruiting class that includes St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.) big man Samardo Samuels.

"I think I just committed too early to Maryland," Jennings said. "I have nothing against their program or Coach [Gary] Williams, but I didn't really feel the sense of family there that I felt at Louisville."

But questions remain about just how long Jennings will stay with Cardinals. He says he doesn't think much about the NBA right now, but he's already 19 and Hurd does not believe Jennings will stay in college for four years.

"He has all the tools he needs to get to the NBA," Hurd said. "He's going to get some great coaching from Rick Pitino, and I think he's going to get him ready to play in the league."

You May Like