Phenom Jennings to ditch college for pros

Brandon Jennings, one of the top basketball recruits in the country, will bypass college and pursue a professional opportunity, most likely in Europe.

"Over the course of the last two months I have consulted a number of people in basketball before coming to this decision," Jennings said in a statement released Tuesday night through his attorney, Jeff Valle. "I would like to thank the University of Arizona for their interest and support through this process."

The 6-foot-2 point guard from Compton, Calif., had signed a letter of intent with Arizona.

Instead he is weighing "multiple offers" to join a European professional team, ideally in Italy, for one season until he becomes eligible for the 2009 NBA draft. In doing so, he becomes the first player since the NBA enacted its 19-year-old age requirement for the 2006 draft to skip college basketball.

One industry source said at least two top college recruits from the class of 2008 also are considering following Jennings' lead overseas for next season.

"I don't think Brandon will be it," he said.

Jennings had said he wouldn't make his final decision until he received his standardized test scores that would determine whether he would be eligible to compete as a freshman at Arizona. They were expected to come later this week.

Rather than wait, however, Jennings and his family have decided to sever ties with Arizona regardless of his eligibility. They are putting their full efforts into exploring professional options.

Arizona coach Lute Olson released a statement saying, "We're disappointed in terms of Brandon's decision, but we want to wish him the best of luck. We hope that things turn out well for him in the future."

Sources close to the process say the Jennings camp has explored numerous options over the past six weeks and garnered multiple professional opportunities in Europe. Each would pay well into the six figures for one season of work, and the most important determination on where Jennings will sign is based on the team's coaching staff and commitment to his development.

If Jennings isn't comfortable with the international options, he also could take the year to work with a personal trainer and coach, most likely under the umbrella of a professional sports agent.

Also interested in Jennings, according to industry sources, are shoe companies Nike and Reebok, both of whom might tender an endorsement contract immediately.

A lightning fast point guard, Jennings was considered the No. 1 recruit in America by some scouts. He set a single-season scoring record last year at hoops powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.

Jennings was expected to lead the Wildcats as they welcomed back their Hall of Fame coach who took last season off.

Jennings had previously said he was intrigued by the opportunity to test himself against older professional players. He believed his game would develop more quickly in that environment than college basketball.

If he does, he could start a trend of players skipping school. That would alter the NBA-NCAA partnership that had energized the collegiate game by sending top prospects to school for one year.