Bucks Like Jennings Upside, Meeks Range

Heading in to Thursday night’s NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks weren’t sure who was still going to be available by the time they were on the clock.

Heading in to Thursday night’s NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks weren’t sure who was still going to be available by the time they were on the clock.

But whether his impact is felt immediately or it takes a few years, the Bucks believe they landed one of the best players in the class of 2009 by selecting Brandon Jennings with the tenth overall pick.

“I think we got a special one, I really do,” Bucks general manager John Hammond said on Thursday after making the pick. “The discussion was which one of these guys has a chance to be the very best. I’m not sure exactly how much time we’re talking about, if we’re talking about coming in and playing right away or a season or two or whatever it’s going to be, but at a certain point someone’s going to say that one of these guys is going to turn out to be extra special and I think our guy Jennings has a chance to be that.”

Head coach Scott Skiles had an opportunity to see Jennings play against Jonny Flynn, Jeff Teague, and Ty Lawson (all picked in the top 20) in a workout the Bucks hosted on Monday and liked what he saw in the 19 year old’s game.

“He’s very talented,” Skiles said of Jennings. “He plays with a certain amount of flair that I know people will like to see. He has good vision on the floor. He’s an exciting young talent.” Originally from California, Jennings transferred to basketball boarding school Oak Hill Academy in Virginia where he averaged 35.5 points, 6.8 assists, and 3.2 steals per game during his senior and was named the 2008 Naismith and Parade Magazine Player of the Year.

After initially committing to play at the University of Arizona, Jennings instead elected to take his game overseas and play professionally for Lottomatica Virtus Roma in Italy while waiting out the NBA’s ‘one year out of high school’ requirement for being drafted.

“That whole experience overseas helped my game a lot to mature,” Jennings said by phone after being selected. “I’ve learned the pick and roll game a lot. I had to work for everything. I had to earn my playing time. Off the court I’ve matured a lot as a person.”

After receiving sporadic playing time at three different positions in Italy, Jennings is excited to show what he can do in the NBA.

“I’m ready to come in there and do what I do best,” Jennings said. “Run a team and put on the show for the fans like I did when I was there for the McDonald’s game.”

Milwaukee hosted the 2008 McDonald’s All-American Game, which every year features the best high school basketball players across the country. Jennings was the top-rated high school senior by ESPN and finished with 12 points and nine assists in that game.

“When I first got to Milwaukee all I heard was always bad stuff, that Milwaukee is really boring,” Jennings said. “I think I really go to see the town a little bit when I came out there for the workouts for those three days, and Milwaukee’s not a bad town. It’s kind of laid back.

Also now I get to go to a Green Bay Packers game so I’m really looking forward to that.”

Later in the night, looking to repeat the second-round success they had in 2008 with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the Bucks drafted Jodie Meeks out of the University of Kentucky with the 41st overall pick.

Meeks scored just under 24 points per game in his junior year for the Wildcats before declaring for the Draft and foregoing his senior season. He shot 40.6 percent from three-point range and over 90 percent from the free throw line during his 2008-’09 season.

“He’s one of the better shooters in this draft,” Hammond said. “One thing he can do that you can’t teach is shoot the ball the way he can.”

The 6-foot-4 shooting guard set Kentucky’s all-time single-game scoring mark when he dropped 54 points on Tennessee this past season, including 10-10 from beyond the arc and 14-14 from the line.

“I’ve always been able to shoot pretty well,” Meeks said by phone after hearing his name called by the Bucks. “My ability to shoot the 3-point shot is definitely a strength for me, but also I can do other things.”

Hammond agrees, and likes a lot of aspects that Meeks can bring to the team.

“Our guys that were out scouting all year said the thing that they were really impressed about is that he may be one of the better defenders too,” Hammond said. “The guy is a great defender, has great strength, great athlete.”

With Ramon Sessions and Charlie Villanueva set to hit restricted free agency next week, and Richard Jefferson being traded to San Antonio earlier in the week, Jennings and Meeks may have an opportunity to contribute quite a bit to the Bucks during the upcoming season. But either way, this year’s draft is one step closer to the long-term goal that Hammond and his staff have laid out for Milwaukee to become a serious contender in the not-too-distant future.

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