A Top to Bottom Breakdown on Jennings to UMD
Driesell "was just cool about everything. We talk continuously. He didn't really press me too hard. He kept it cool, but I could tell he really wanted me," said Jennings, who committed to Maryland Wednesday night over finalists Kentucky and Washington. "At the end of the day, it was the best place for me to develop as a player and get to the next level."
Jennings is one of the most gifted players in the Class of 2008, a dynamic and powerful athlete who, at 6-10 and 230 pounds, springs high off of the floor effortlessly to block shots and dunk the ball. Because he has attended school for more than four years, he's not rated in the Top-100. But he is rated the No. 12 center in the nation by Scout.com, and is likely to see that ranking go up if he continues his stellar play from this spring and summer; he was one of the hottest commodities in the nation this offseason.
He's a certain top-50 talent, and quite possibly even much better than that.
Said Scout.com Recruiting Director Dave Telep, the country's foremost recruiting analyst: "It's a significant commitment, because one thing about the guy is, other teams in the ACC will not have an answer for his balance and explosion inside, period."
"If he clears up his academic stuff," Telep said, "then he ends up being a guy that Maryland can ride."
Jennings has done a lot of traveling during his high school career, starting at a public school in Sacramento before attending several prep schools in other states. He began to flourish late last season at Mt. Zion, located in Durham, and has also realized it's time to put it together academically. He'll be back at Mt. Zion again this fall, he said, and will be seeing a tutor several times a week in an effort to qualify.
"I'm just going to study hard, see my tutors and work hard. I'm not that far off," he said.
He just finished summer school and said it went very well. And after admittedly not always playing his hardest in the past, he's been a relentless force on the court and is spending more time in the gym than ever before.
"He's never been coached, so it'll be interesting to see how he reacts to Gary Williams. Gary Williams is just what he needs to straighten himself out in the classroom and on the floor, because he's got the talent," Telep said.
Still, he doesn't regret the moves he's made, even if they did set him back a bit in the transcript and on-court development departments.
"I think I had to go through a lot of doors in order for me to develop as a person. I developed by going through all of those doors and got to where I need to be," he said.
And that place, he said, is Maryland.
"Maryland has always been recruiting me. They've been with me even when I wasn't doing good," said Jennings, who averaged 12 points, seven rebounds and eight blocks after a mid-season transfer from Charis Prep (N.C.) to Mt. Zion. "I'm going to develop as a big man under Gary Williams and Chuck Driesell … I'm just going to go in there and do my thing – run the floor, block shots and get rebounds and dunks."
Terp Sports Report first spotted Jennings at a tournament here in Maryland last spring and was first to break the news that Maryland was recruiting him and was his No. 1 choice. He was little-known nationally at the time, but you could see the potential there. He blocked 12 shots against a National Christian team loaded with Division I talent and top-notch athletes.
Jennings' style of play and appearance have earned comparisons to Amare Stoudemire, though it would be unfair to make a full-fledged comparison to the NBA superstar at this point. Many Maryland fans have compared him to former Terps power forward Chris Wilcox, who similarly played his prep ball and Carolina and was an athletic specimen in the paint.
Jennings, though, had not heard the comparison to Wilcox; in fact, he didn't seem to be familiar with the name at all. He said he doesn't watch college basketball and doesn't know much at all about the current cast of players at Maryland. He plans to get to know everyone in a few weeks when he heads to College Park for a visit. That includes Williams, with whom he's had some good dialogue, but has not spent much time.
"When I get out there we'll sit down and have a long talk," he said. "We've just talked about life, about what each of us will bring to the table."
That includes the chance for immediate playing time and possibly a starting spot. Maryland will need a big man to pair with then-sophomore forward Braxton Dupree in the '08-09 season and beyond. Dupree has earned rave reviews, and the two, paired with the gifted, playmaking backcourt of Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes, has Terp fans envisioning Final Four trips.
"That's big, for a kid from Cali to come all the way to the East Coast and start in the ACC. I'm ready to embrace the opportunity. I know I'll have to pay my dues like everyone else, but I'm ready to do that," Jennings said.
Finally, there is no doubt other schools will continue to chase Jennings. He's quite the commodity, so a verbal commitment isn't likely to scare a lot of schools away from him. But he said there's nothing to worry about on that front.
"Nah," he said, "I'm set on what I want. I'm set on this whole commitment."
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