Dressed in dark blue jeans, a green short sleeve shirt and pink-swoosh Nikes, Brandon Jennings walked the 10-yard-long red carpet last night at Magic Theatres on the corner of 124th Street and Frederick Douglas Blvd. in Harlem.
Jennings has been in the news this week after announcing he'd consider playing in Europe if he doesn't get the SAT score he needs to qualify for NCAA eligibility.
As a participant in the original Elite 24 high school all-star game, the flashy, pass-first point guard was in attendance to review his performance in Gunnin' For That #1 Spot -- a film that chronicles eight players as they prepared for the event. After being interviewed by a VH1 talking blonde and OK Magazine, a fawning member of the entertainment press corps asked, "How do you like the red carpet?"
"I feel like a celebrity," said Jennings, the nation's top point guard recruit, as he slipped inside the theatre's front door.
Though he appears on the movie posters marketing the film, Jennings, 18, gained fame last weekend as the poster boy of a potential new movement for high school seniors by playing in Europe instead of college for a year. Having already taken the SAT twice, the Los Angeles native has not yet achieved a qualifying score to play at Arizona, where he has signed a Letter of Intent. After not scoring high enough the first time he took the test, the NCAA red-flagged his second score due to a large jump from the initial test. He has taken the test a third time and is expected to learn his scores Thursday. "I'm not really thinking about that stuff right now," said Jennings, who graduated Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) last month and has been playing recently in Rucker Park and Pro City tournaments around New York. "I'm not surprised [the announcement of Europe plans] got as much attention as it has. I knew it would."
An innovator on and off the court, who wore a "Gumby" style haircut to the Jordan Brand All-American game in April, believes he is seeing the whole floor. Listening to the "The Loose Cannons Show" on KLAC (570 AM) in Los Angeles two weeks ago, Jennings heard former influential sneaker marketer Sonny Vaccaro discussing the O.J. Mayo-Rodney Guillory fallout on air with former top pick Mychal Thompson, now a Lakers radio announcer. "The beauty of it is that I didn't know Brandon was listening," says Vaccaro, who is in Manhattan for the NBA Draft.
In the days following the radio appearance, Vaccaro met with Jennings and his mother, Alice Knox. The family has since retained a lawyer, Jeffrey Valle, and will not make a decision until his test scores arrive. "One of these days a kid is going to go to Europe," Vaccaro says. "What we are seeing now is parents and kids being more attuned to their options. Whether Brandon is first to go or not, that's to be determined."
If Jennings, who has made clear school is not a priority, chooses to challenge the current system that forces high school players to wait a year after high school before entering the NBA draft, he would be the first outside-the-box thinker to take his game out of the country. "When I heard it was I was like 'Wow!'" said D.J. Augustin, who left Texas after his sophomore to enter the NBA Draft, where he is expected to be a top-10 pick Thursday night.
Kevin Love, also featured prominently in the film, says he would not be surprised if his former AAU teammate with the So-Cal Stars decides to migrate overseas. "If he went to Arizona he'd get plenty of love in the U.S. and press attention," says Love, who was a one-and-done player at UCLA. "Maybe he would get even more attention in Europe. I think he might be able to set a trend."
On Thursday, Jennings, who earned the Rucker nickname "The Takeover" after his performance at the Elite 24 tourney, will watch another class of college prospects and international stars drafted into the NBA. He says that he would like to be on stage with commissioner David Stern next year. Where he will spend that time in between, though, has yet to be determined. "He will have all the information he needs to know," Vaccaro says. "That much is known."