"He just fell in love with the place"

If you want to find out more about a player, who better to ask than his high school coach? We caught up with Oak Hill head coach Steve Smith to learn more about Brandon Jennings.

The most pressing question was why did Jennings chose the Wildcats?

"He felt comfortable there," Smith admitted. "He met with the coaches. The style of play is perfect for him. Plus the guards they've had, he really fits in their style.

"He just fell in love with the place this weekend."

Heading into the weekend Jennings' plan was to wait until July to make an announcement. Because of that most were surprised that he pulled the trigger so soon after his visit to Tucson.

"I'm a little shocked," Smith admitted. "I thought he might drag it into the summer, maybe even the fall." Despite the shock of the timing, he was not shocked that the Wildcats were the team.

"I knew there was a chance that he could fall in love with the place," said Smith.

Some observers worry about the fact that Jennings transferred from Dominguez High School in Compton to the basketball powerhouse of Oak Hill. While some doubt his loyalty, Smith claims it shows his character.

"He came to Oak Hill last year because he wanted to better himself as a student, player and person," Smith explained.

Smith feels that the type of nationwide schedule the team plays prepares his players for the next level.

"By the time he gets there he'll be used to the travel and keeping his grades up," Smith said. "The two years here will be invaluable. He will not be your typical freshman. Playing the schedule we do he's been through the wars and battles."

Last year Jennings played a major role for the team that went 40-1 and was ranked No. 1 in the nation. Running the point, Smith put a lot of trust in the junior.

"He's the catalyst for us with what we want to do," Smith said. "He's the type of player that can make plays for his team. He can involve the team. He passes the ball. He's great at passing the ball. He keeps things going up-tempo.

"He plays a style that the fans in Tucson are going to enjoy watching."

With some key departures, Oak Hill will put even more responsibilities on the shoulders of the nation's top point guard in the 2008 class.

"Next year we are going to count on him a lot more," said Smith. "Next year he's taking on a lot more pressure. But he likes it, he wants a challenge."

Another knock on Jennings is his November commitment to USC. The Trojans came from nowhere to earn the verbal pledge, but even then many found it curious. Smith says there was nothing more to the de-commitment than a kid realizing he did not think enough about the recruiting process.

"I was a bit surprised he committed so early," said Smith. "I think he saw all these other guys going through the recruiting process and decided he made a decision too quick. He just felt like, ‘hey I want to look around'."

While many thought UConn had the upper hand, Smith is not surprised to see Jennings chose the Wildcats. Citing a close relationship with his mother and brother, plus the style of offense the Wildcats employ, his coach feels it was a natural pick.

"In the end he feels like he's a West Coast guy," Smith said. "He's very close to his family and it will be easier for them to see him play. Arizona is the right team. He respects Coach Olson. I think he probably felt it was the right place for him."


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