Sideways to Move Up

Sometimes, the timing is just off. Sometimes, the prerequisites needed aren't there. Sometimes, things just don't pan out. And sometimes, that's not necessarily a reflection of one's true ability or potential. Last year Virtus Roma (who play basketball, and is AS Roma's sister club in spirit, if not legally and technically) signed a kid named Brandon Jennings. It received a lot of attention in both Italy and in America, because Jennings decided to skip college and head to Europe for a year, before entering the NBA draft. Said and done, that's exactly what happened. Jennings, 19 at the time, struggled to adapt to the different style of basketball played, and the leap from playing against boys in high school, to seasoned veterans with Virtus was a big and daunting one. His playing time wasn't holy, and his production and performances mediocre. Many extrapolated from this, and predicted that he wasn't as talented as his hype suggested; that it was all much ado about nothing.

Last night, I just learned, he scored 55 points in only his 7th NBA game. To put it in perspective: no rookie has scored more in a single game in 40+ years.

The Jennings example goes to show that it's always a good idea to keep in mind that some players don't have to be bad, just because they're not performing as expected/hoped. We had all of last year and Ménez, as an example closer to home. Gourcuff couldn't get a look at Milan, and now he'll have half of Europe bend over backwards to get him after the World Cup. And on and on.

I'm happy for Jennings, as a supporter of Virtus and a fan of Jennings himself. He's a ridiculously good basketball player, and more importantly: he didn't hesitate to donate 50,000 dollars when the terrible Earthquakes hit Abruzzo last spring. That's empathy, and that's what connects some players to fans on a deeper level than the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, result driven stance.