Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brandon Jennings- The Next Great Point Guard from Point Guard U

The Oak Hill Academy (VA) Warriors are always loaded with premiere players, and this year was no different. The squad this season was led by future Arizona Wildcat Brandon Jennings, a 6'2 senior guard. The former USC commit is considered to be one of the best players in the nation, and is a consensus top two point guard. Jennings' squad suffered a tough loss in the Prime Time Shootout to St. Patrick's (NJ), another national power, but the Warriors were still regarded as one of the nation's best teams even after the loss. Before leaving, Brandon was kind enough to chat with me for a few minutes.

NB: That was a tough loss, solid effort though. What do you think happened out there?
BJ: My teammates couldn’t hit shots. So, when the main focus is on just me, . . . every time they were in a 2-3 [zone defense], they would shift the 2-3 to my side, and my teammates couldn’t knock down shots, so that’s why we couldn’t score.

NB: You guys are still having a good year. Is there anything you’re hoping to accomplish the rest of the way, . . . both personally or team-wise?
BJ: I’m just trying to get through the season. Yeah, that’s about it.

NB: You’ve committed to Arizona. Has the whole coaching situation there had any impact on you, or are you just really excited to get down there and play basketball?
BJ: Oh no, I’m just real excited to get down there. [Interim Arizona Head] Coach [Kevin] O’Neill, he’s a good coach, he coached in the League [for] a couple [of] years, so he knows what he’s doing.

NB: Have you thought anything about maybe playing with Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger if they come back? Is that thought one of the reasons why you did commit there?
BJ: Yeah, if they come back, we’ll have a shot at running at the Final Four next year, which would be real exciting.

NB: What were some of the other reasons that you chose to go to Arizona over all the other schools that were looking at you?
BJ: It’s a point guard school. All the great point guards came out of there, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Gilbert Arenas, so I want to be the next one.

NB: If you had to pick thing that is the best part of being a member of Oak Hill, this national powerhouse, what would it be, the best part of playing for Oak Hill Academy?
BJ: The traveling man, the traveling is crazy. We travel more than a college team basically. The traveling and then getting to win a national championship.

I spoke with Brandon again today, so I'll fill you in on what we discussed this time around. Jennings informed that he thought Lute Olson announcing he would be returning to Arizona next season is "a good situation, becasue he's been there forever. With him coming back, . . . some other guys might want to" come back as well. Brandon mentioned a "chance at the Final Four" again, as well. There had been some question as to what Arizona's Interim Head Coach Kevin O'Neill would do if Olson decided to return, and now that it's official that the legend will be coming back, I asked Brandon if he knew anything. Jennnings stated that he has "no idea," yet did say "hopefully he does, becasue he's really good with the defense," and he felt that O'Neill and Olson would be"real powerful" together. It certainly seems that Brandon does want to play for O'Neill as well as Olson, which could bode well for O'Neill. Also looking ahead towards the 2008-2009 season, Jennings told me that he "will be to play [his] position," mentioning that he could go back to being a "passing point" guard and also "score a bit." In fact, Brandon went as far as saying that he wants to "average a double-double." Regarding this year's bubble team out in Arizona, Brandon told me that he wants them to be successful in the Pac-10 Tournament and said that their Wildcats' style of play is "really slow right now." You all may be interested to know that Jennings originaly committed to USC becasue at the time he wanted to go to college close to home, and he is from California. Brandon told me that "it was USC and UConn, and [he] didn't want to go to UConn." Once Brandon realized that he wanted to explore other options, he went on a visit and "liked Arizona a lot. It's the Point Guard U." Another interesting tidbit is that after the loss to St. Pat's, Oak Hill did not lose the rest of the way, and "finished the year 34-4." To give you an idea of just how high the expectations are for the Warriors, Jennings said that the record was "a little dissapointing," also mentioning that the squad "didn't have the strength [it] had in the past couple of years. . . . We were down a bit this year." Assuming Bayless and Budinger stay in school, the Wildcats will be a terrific team next year. Jennings certainly has the potential to be Arizona's next great point guard, and if he does become just that, the Wildcats could be one of the top teams in the country for however many years he is in college. Brandon Jennings is a wonderful playmaker at the point, with the skill set to be successful for years to come.

Note- photo is from http://oakhillhoops.com/

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