Q & A: Brandon Jennings
Oak Hill point guard talks about his new surroundings
Posted: Monday February 26, 2007 11:52AM; Updated: Monday February 26, 2007 4:52PM
Despite his standing as the best point guard in the class of 2008, Brandon Jennings, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound point guard, has already given USC an oral commitment. Having transferred from Dominguez (Compton, Cailf.) to the Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) last summer, Jennings has adapted his game and lifestyle to the new settings.
Armstrong: With a regular rotation of at least five players who will play Divison I college basketball in the next two years, Oak Hill coach Steve Smith puts a lot of trust in his point guard's hands. How was your first year under Smith?
Jennings: It was great. We played 41 games and only lost one. We played six teams in the top 25, so we always had to bring our 'A' game. Playing with guys like Alex Legion and Nolan Smith on a daily basis only made me better. There're guys competing for playing time in practice, and coach Smith puts a lot of resonsibility on my shoulders. We should win the national championship since we finished our season on Saturday and St. Patrick lost this weekend after beating Huntington, so it feels good to be national champs. I still don't know how we did it with so few guys, but we were pretty much playing the whole game unless it was a 30-point blowout.
Armstrong: What is life at Oak Hill like?
Jennings: At first it was tough to get accustomed to the atmosphere out here. It's always cold, and snowy in the winter. There's no mall and no movie theatre nearby, so all you have to do is study and play basketball. At first I wanted to go back home, but I got used to it. I know the reason that I'm out here is not to have fun, but to get my grades up. School runs from 8 a.m. to 2:55 p.m., and our classes are 50 minutes long. After school we have practice, and we go to the student store to hang around a little bit. Dinner is at 5 p.m. and then it's the books after that.
Armstrong: What's your favorite book that you've read recently?
Jennings: Driven from Within by Michael Jordan.
Armstrong: Why did you leave Dominguez for Oak Hill?
Jennings: I needed to get out to improve my grades, and get more mature by living on my own. Back in California I wasn't really pushed in terms of competition on the basketball team and by teachers in the classroom. The Nets' Marcus Williams, who grew up near me in L.A., told me that I should think about coming to Oak Hill because that's what he did. He started at Crenshaw, and then he moved to Oak Hill to finish school.
Armstrong: Do you stay in contact with Williams often?
Jennings: Yes, he's like a brother to me. We're both lefty point guards from the same area, so I always hear people comparing us to each other. I'd love to follow his career path, but he gives a lot of advice having been through things. Like when he got caught up with the laptops at UConn, he sat me down and said he doesn't want me to have to go through anything like that. We always talk about how hard you have to work to get at his level, and the importance of image, including body language on the court.
Armstrong: Coming from Compton, did you know that the late Dennis Johnson of Boston Celtics fame attended Dominguez as well?
Jennings: No, I didn't know that actually, but more recently we have had Tayhsaun Prince and Tyson Chandler come through the school.
Armstrong: Did you grow up watching them and studying their games?
Jennings: I actually was the ball boy for Dominguez when Tyson was there and I was like 11 or 12 years old. Those were great years for them, and I just wanted to be around and pick up any tidbits that I could. I really learned a lot from that team.
Armstrong: Why did you decide to go back to Los Angeles and USC for college?
Jennings: I miss California. I do a good job of staying in contact back home. I call my mom regularly, and we get a a phone from Oak Hill that we can use to stay in contact. I really enjoy the scene back home, and USC is getting hot right now. They're getting in the top 25 and looking good. My mom said Denzel Washington was at the game the other night.
Armstrong: Do you ever joke around with Duke-bound Nolan Smith or Michigan-bound Alex Legion about their school choices?
Jennings: Oh, all the time. You can't really mess with Duke, but Alex, we're like, do you know how many NITs they have gone to? Are you sure you want to play your college ball there, Alex? They come after me, too, but USC is up and coming.
Armstrong: Will O.J. Mayo stay past his freshman year as a Trojan?
Jennings: I hope so. That would be a great player to be with. We're getting good guys going there, and our recruiting class is already a top one. Malik Story from Artesia is going to come to Oak Hill next year and also go with me to SC. We've played together since like the fifth grade, so I'm excited to have him out here.
Armstrong: With the high school season over, what's next on your schedule?
Jennings: I'm going to take a week off, but then I have to get ready again for the AAU season. This is a big year for me even though I am committed. I play for the Southern California All Stars, which had Kevin Love on the team last year. We play on the Reebok schedule.
Armstrong: What do you think about there not being an ABCD or Big Time tournament this summer?
Jennings: I was planning on going back to them and killing things this year. It's a big stage for guys to make a name, and I enjoyed them last year. I think it's a shame for the guys who have not made a name yet to get a chance. I just got an invitation to play in Steve Nash's skills camp with Nike. I'm not sure yet if I'm going. I have to check on a few things, but I met Steve when he was shooting a fundamentals video in California once. He was real nice, and I saw him at a game later, he remembered me. I also saw him at the Boost Mobile Elite 24 game in Harlem last September. He was there, and he gave me some advice.
Armstrong: After scoring 12 points and dishing out 15 assists in that game at the Rucker, you were given the nickname, "Dobbie Doo", can you explain why?
Jennings: I guess it's just because I do what I do. That was a lot of fun. I had been to New York, but never the Rucker before.
Armstrong: What are the holes in your game that you need to shore up before the next level?
Jennings: I still need to play hard all the time. Staying motivated even when we are leading by a lot is definitely something I need to do. I think I have made strides toward that, and one of the reasons I chose USC is that I think coach Tim Floyd knows that he can push me as hard as he wants. I'm there to learn from him what the NBA is like.