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Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Jennings on Europe, Rubio, NBA's age rule


NEW YORK -- Brandon Jennings said if he goes in the top five in Thursday's NBA draft, he will earn the trailblazing tag that was stuck on him when he opted to play in Europe instead of going to college as a freshman.

"I'm sure more kids will go," Jennings told ESPN.com on Wednesday of the possible effect of a high draft spot for him. "Nowadays, kids are into the top five. Being in the top five is really big. If I am, then more kids will go. If I'm not, then maybe you'll just see one or two."

Jennings is projected to go anywhere from No. 7 on down.

But Jennings said he wouldn't change a thing. He played one season for Virtus Roma in Italy, averaging 5.5 points and 2.3 assists a game. He had signed a national letter of intent to play at Arizona, but at the time he made his decision, he hadn't qualified academically yet.

Jennings said San Diego's Jeremy Tyler, a junior in high school who dropped out this spring to play professionally for the next two years (likely in Israel) before he is draft eligible, should do "wonderful. It's a big man's game and I think he'll have a better showing than I did.''

Jennings said the experience made him grow as a basketball player and as a person.

He also said the draft rule should go back to the way it was, with the ability for high school seniors to head straight to the NBA. But he said it would be fair if the NCAA created a rule, something the National Association of Basketball Coaches endorses, where a player who matriculated into college has to stay in school two or three years. The rule would be similar to the baseball rule where players have to stay for three years if they start college.

"Kids should make up their own mind to go to the draft or not,'' Jennings said. "The colleges are getting these players for only one year if they're high profile. It's maybe only six months, just the basketball season. Everything should go back to the way it was. But it would be fair too if you had to stay in college. You would have the chance out of high school and then college coaches would have you for three years if you go. That's fair to me."

Meanwhile, Jennings said he's not going to the New York Knicks at No. 8. Does he know that for sure? No. But he is confident that the Knicks will get Davidson's Stephen Curry.

"That's who they want,'' Jennings said. "They'll make it happen."

• Jennings said he played against Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio once and that he is the most experienced player in the draft. "He's been playing pro ball since he was 15 and he's more physically and mentally ready than anybody,'' said Jennings, who initially thought that Rubio was overhyped but backed off that statement Wednesday. "I'm a competitor and I like to compete and since he is the best point guard in the draft, I think I let my competitiveness get the best of me … because the kid is not all hype."

• Curry worked out for Sacramento on Sunday and said he'd be comfortable going to the Kings at No. 4 because he sees them putting together a positive turnaround situation. But Curry's affection for the Knicks, and the reciprocal feelings, are real.

"They told me that if I were on the board, that I would be their No. 1 guy,'' Curry said. "That doesn't mean it's guaranteed. I went to other workouts and made it tougher on them."

The Knicks pick No. 8.

"I hope to turn around the trend that they boo everybody [the Knicks select],'' Curry said. "I've heard a lot of good stuff from the fans. Maybe that attitude will change to applause at the arena Thursday night."

• Gonzaga's Austin Daye wasn't surprised he was one of the 15 players invited to the draft in New York. He didn't go as far as to say he has a promise that he will be picked, but he did say he felt very comfortable he would go somewhere between 14 (Phoenix) and 16 (Chicago), which includes Detroit (15) in the middle.

"I wouldn't be here if it were a shaky position,'' said Daye. "Me and my agent talked enough and I know a lot of people wanted me to go back to school. But if it's there you have to go."

Jrue Holiday said he's a point guard, even though he never got the chance to play the position in his one season at UCLA because of the return of Darren Collison. He said he had no issue with coach Ben Howland not playing him at the position, since he was the starting wing. "I'm a point,'' Holiday said. "I'm a point that likes to run and New York would be my type of game. It would be fun to be at Madison Square Garden. I'm really confident. That's why I'm here. I put in all the work in the past two months."

Holiday is a viable option for the Knicks at No. 8. Holiday said Howland initially told him he would be the backup point guard when Collison was out of the game, but that didn't happen. "I didn't complain about it,'' Holiday said. "I asked him if I could play point a bit. But life isn't always fair."

• Duke's Gerald Henderson is another player politicking to get to New York at No. 8. He said he'd love to play for the Knicks and said he's a good fit with them.

• Henderson said the departure of Duke freshman guard Elliot Williams will hurt the Blue Devils' athleticism. Williams and Henderson were widely considered the two top athletes on the team last season. Williams left Duke because of family medical reasons. "They're going to lose some athleticism,'' Henderson said. "Elliot, even on last year's team, was our most athletic dude on our team. They're going to lose that. But they'll figure it out. Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] always is going to have a good team and figure it out. They'll still be good."

The Blue Devils will lean even more on Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer on the perimeter without Williams. Duke was already expected to be a much bigger squad next season, but now the depth on the perimeter is even more of an issue. The Blue Devils still have one of the toughest matchups in the country in forward Kyle Singler.

• The Orleans Arena in Las Vegas has now become the popular neutral-site location for conferences. The West Coast Conference moved its league tournament to the Orleans last year. Now the WAC will do the same in 2011. The 2010 tournament will be in Reno, Nev., but the 2011 and 2012 tournaments will be at the Orleans Arena. It will be a busy week in Vegas, with the week starting out with the WCC and then the WAC at the Orleans. Old rivals will be in the same town from Thursday to Saturday since the Mountain West Conference tournament will be at the Thomas & Mack Center on UNLV's campus at the same time as the WAC in 2011.

• Georgetown finally filled its vacant assistant coaching position after John Thompson III's good friend, Robert Burke, was told he wouldn't be retained. The Hoyas hired American assistant Mike Brennan to fill Burke's spot. Brennan was a finalist for the Brown head-coaching job a year ago after Craig Robinson left for Oregon State.