Brandon’s beginning at the BC

Jennings revisits McDonald’s All-American stint

Brandon Jennings
Coming off a record-setting senior season at Oak Hill Academy, Brandon Jennings made his first Bradley Center appearance on March 26, 2008, in the 31st annual McDonald’s All-American Game.

Were you in the house to witness Brandon Jennings’ first game at the Bradley Center?

Jennings, back in the United States after playing his first professional season in Italy, scored a team-high 24 points – 16 in the third quarter -- in leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a 96-85 triumph over the Detroit Pistons in their 2009-10 regular-season opener Oct. 31, 2009.

That was not, however, Jennings’ Bradley Center debut.

Two weeks earlier, the 10th overall selection in the 2009 National Basketball Association Draft celebrated his first NBA start, totaling 16 points and seven assists as the Bucks defeated the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves 101-87 in a preseason game.

But that game was not Jennings’ first in the BC, either.

Coming off a record-setting senior season at famed Oak Hill Academy, Jennings made his first Bradley Center appearance on March 26, 2008, in the 31st annual McDonald’s All-American Game, which was televised live nationally by ESPN.

Forty eight of the United States’ premier high school basketball players received the red-carpet treatment for a girls/boys doubleheader that evening.

As Jennings stepped back in time to reminisce about his Milwaukee visit, though, he remembered having to walk across a carpet of a different color to reach the red one waiting for him and his teammates at the Bradley Center.

“When we first got here, there were about 16 inches of snow on the ground,” Jennings said with a smile. “Guys were kidding around and saying, ‘Naw, I hope I don’t get drafted here.’

“Then I came to find out (15 months after) that I was the one pick out of that game to come here.”

Jennings was arguably the most accomplished and acclaimed member of the 2008 Mickey D’s team.

After beginning his prep career at Compton Dominguez High School in California, Jennings finished it at prestigious Oak Hill Academy of Mouth of Wilson, Va. He led the Warriors to a  national championship in his junior year, then went on to establish school records for points scored in a season (1,312), highest scoring average for one season (35.5 ppg.) and most points scored in a single game (63) during his senior campaign.

He was presented with the Naismith High School Player of the Year Award, became Oak Hills first Parade Magazine Player of the Year and was also proclaimed the nation’s best player by EA Sports and MaxPreps.

The significance of Jennings’ selection as a McDonald’s All-American, though, was not lost on him.

“The McDonald’s All-American game … if you just read down the list of players who’ve been in it, you always wanted to be one,” he said. “There’s also the Jordan (Brand All-American) Game, where you get to meet Michael Jordan.

“The McDonald’s game, though, has the tradition.”

Each year, players visit the local Ronald McDonald House in the market where the game takes place and visit with the families and children who live in the houses. Players gain a better understanding of why the game is so important by giving back to others and helping to put a smile on so many faces.

The children and families at the Ronald McDonald House visit help players realize that their biggest successes in life will always be helping others.

Each year, a portion of the proceeds from the McDonald's All American Games will go to Ronald McDonald House Charities and its network of local chapters.  Millions of dollars have been raised since the first game was played in 1978.

Jennings remembers his team’s visit to the local Ronald McDonald House. The experience still brings back memories when he drives around the area.

“That was fun,” he said. “Our hotel was downtown and they had to take us all the way to Mequon. At the time, I didn’t know where I was going. I’d never been in Milwaukee.

“I actually drove past the hotel where we stayed during All-Star Weekend, and that brought back memories.  I was like, ‘That’s the hotel where I stayed. Now look … I live here.”

West Coast media members were predicting before the game that Jennings would drop 50 points. He played for the West team, which was coached by Milwaukee City Conference icons Tom Diener, Jim Gosz and Marc Mitchell.

The Western scribes’ forecast wasn’t even close as Jennings finished with 12-points, opting to set up his teammates rather than jack up as many shots as he possibly could. But Jennings had a blast, and his nine assists ranked 10th in the game’s history. He also grabbed five rebounds.

“I was just going with the flow,” he said. “I was out there having fun.

“During those all-star games, everybody wants to score. The main thing is you just want to have fun, throw lobs here and there. It wasn’t about scoring 50 or whatever; it was more about having fun.”

Jennings’ West team fell to the East 107-102. The John R. Wooden Most Valuable Player Award went to University of Memphis recruit Tyreke Evans, who collected team highs of 21 points and 10 rebounds. Rutgers recruit Michael Rosario added 18 points and five steals.

Oklahoma-bound Willie Warren  paced the West with 23 points.

Jennings remembers the buzz over the previous year’s McDonald’s All-American Game, which featured the likes of Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley – all playing for the same team.

He remembers forecasts that there would be a substantial drop-off in talent for future games.

But Jennings’ group has done itself proud.

“There were Jrue Holiday, myself, Tyreke Evans, DeMar DeRozan, Samardo Samuels, Greg Monroe … and a few more guys who are now in the NBA,” Jennings said. “It was a pretty good group.

“We’re all doing what we love to do now. That’s something you can’t complain about.”


2008 McDonald’s All-American Boys Basketball Game
(March 26, 2008, at Bradley Center, Milwaukee)
EAST 107, WEST 102

East: Tyreke Evans* 21, Mike Rosario 18, Kemba Walker* 13, Sylven Landesberg 2, Elliot Williams* 10, Chris Singleton* 0, Ed Davis* 11, Tyler Zeller 6, Al-Farouq Aminu* 0, William Buford 6, JaMychal Green 12, Samardo Samuels* 8.

West: Iman Shumpert* 0, Brandon Jennings* 12, Luke Babbitt* 4, Greg Monroe* 1, Malcolm Lee* 3, Willie Warren* 23, Jrue Holiday* 14, Larry Drew II 7, Demar DeRozan* 10, Scotty Hopson 10, B.J. Mullens* 12, Michael Dunigan 6

*reached NBA