A journey to NBA via Italy

November 12, 2009, 3:35 PM HST · Updated November 17, 7:27 AM
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By Fred Guzman
MauiNow.com

Many critics questioned Brandon Jennings’ decision to forego college while waiting out the required one year before entering the NBA draft. Instead, the talented point guard got paid handsomely — $1.65 million net — to play for one season with a top team in Italy.

Judging for his early success with the Milwaukee Bucks, Jennings made the right choice in going overseas instead of going through the one-and-done charade with an American college team.

His stats with a team in Rome were not particularly impressive, but playing on a daily basis with and against men appears have to prepared Jennings well for the NBA.

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Through six games as a rookie, the 20-year-old Jennings is averaging 20.7 points and 5.2 assists, including 32 points and 9 assists in last night’s surprise 108-102 victory over Denver in which he was matched up against the highly respected Chauncey Billups.

Interestingly, Jennings is actually taking a paycut this season with the Bucks. His NBA rookie salary of $2.1 million translates to slightly more than $1 million in take-home pay.

My guess is that more players will consider taking the international route in the future instead of going to college in anticipation of entering the NBA draft.

In fact, a kid who played for his prep tam in a tournament at the Lahaina Civic Center just last December took the overseas option.

Jeremy Tyler, a 6-11 junior, dropped out of San Diego High School and signed a $140,000 annual contract to play for a pro team in Israel. The 17-year-old Tyler became the first player born in the U.S. to leave high school early to play pro basketball overseas. Tyler intends to come back in two years, when he is eligible for the NBA draft.

Tyler has struggled early adjusting to life at the professional level and adapting to a new culture, according to newspaper reports. The biggest knock against Tyler by his current coaches and teammates is a lack of work ethic.

The key for Tyler is realizing that he no longer can just step out on the court and dominate as he did in the prep ranks. Not when he’s competing against men who are just as tall, but much more physically and emotionally mature.

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