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News » Jennings ready for anything Challenges await high-flying rookie

Jennings ready for anything Challenges await high-flying rookie

Jennings ready for anything  Challenges await high-flying rookie By CHARLES F. GARDNER

Nobody had to convince Detroit Piston coach John Kuester about point guard Brandon Jennings' promise.

And that was before the Milwaukee Bucks rookie took apart the Pistons in the third quarter Saturday night.

"He's somebody that can create for himself and create for others," Kuester said. "He's very athletic, and he's playing with a tremendous amount of confidence."

Jennings bolted out of the starting gate in his first two National Basketball Association games, averaging 20.5 points, six assists and five rebounds while helping the Bucks split with Philadelphia and Detroit.

And now it's on to more challenges this week, starting with a highly anticipated matchup against 2009 league rookie of the year Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday in Chicago.

Jennings will go against fellow rookie Jonny Flynn at Minnesota on Friday before returning home Saturday to face the New York Knicks, a team that bypassed him with the No. 8 pick in the June draft.

The slender Jennings topped all rookies' performances on the opening week of the NBA schedule.

He nearly joined Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson in exclusive company, when Jennings went for 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in his league debut on Friday. Robertson is the only player in NBA history to post a triple-double in his first pro game.

What could Jennings do to top that?

He carried the Bucks with a crowd-pleasing 16 points in the third quarter Saturday and finished with a team-leading 24 as the Bucks rallied to beat the division rival Pistons, 96-85.

"My job is to keep him grounded," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "He and I looked at all of his shots from (Friday's) game and all of his turnovers, and when I got done going through them, I told him it was one of the most impressive games from a rookie I've seen since I've been in the league.

"And then I told him, 'You've got to try to follow it up.' He certainly did that; that's for sure."

Jennings was the 10th overall pick in the draft, and three other point guards were selected ahead of him. Ricky Rubio was grabbed fifth by Minnesota but decided to remain in Spain and play for Regal FC Barcelona.

The Timberwolves then took Syracuse star Flynn with the sixth pick, and Golden State selected Davidson guard Stephen Curry next at No. 7.

Flynn has scored 18 and 17 points, respectively, in his first two games and helped lead a fourth-quarter rally that sent the Timberwolves past New Jersey in their opener. He has averaged 2.5 assists and 4.0 turnovers.

Curry has averaged a respectable 13 points and 5.5 assists through two games. But he did take a few lessons from Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash, who had 18 points, 20 assists and six rebounds while going against Curry on Friday night in Phoenix.

Jennings' steal in the open court and behind-the-back move for a reverse layup against Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey was the Bucks guard's signature move of the weekend. It was one he said he learned from watching Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

But Skiles knows there will be tough times ahead for Jennings, too, as he is tested by some of the elite point guards in the league, from Nash to Jason Kidd to Chris Paul to Chauncey Billups.

"Teams are going to go at rookies in general," Skiles said. "I don't know what they list Stuckey at, but he's got to have 35 to 40 pounds on him. Brandon has quick hands and quick feet.

"He's got to continue to learn angles and various players, what they can and can't do. Also, he gets excited out there. That can wear on him physically and take a little out of him, but eventually he's going to be a very good defender."

Jennings' exuberance fueled the crowd and his teammates Saturday and put some life in the Bradley Center after the Bucks struggled in the first half.

"When a guy is having success, it doesn't bother me at all," Skiles said. "He had it going. I know that feeling. I've been in a zone myself before.

"He has a natural enthusiasm for the game, and I'm certainly never going to try to dampen that."

Copyright 2009, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

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