SBJ/20080728/Labor & Agents

Vaccaro doesn’t foresee stampede of prep stars overseas

Sonny Vaccaro, who advised top high school point guard Brandon Jennings on his decision to forgo college for a multimillion-dollar contract with a European team, does not see Jennings leading a mass exodus of America’s best prep players overseas.

But Vaccaro, former head of grassroots marketing for Nike, Adidas and Reebok, said he had received phone calls from the parents of six elite high school players interested in examining the overseas option. Vaccaro would not name the players, but said five were entering their senior year and one his junior year.

Jennings, considered the top high school point guard in the U.S., signed a three-year deal with Italian professional team Pallacanestro Virtus Roma earlier this month. Jennings had been given a scholarship to the University of Arizona, but was awaiting the results of his third SAT exam.

Under the current NBA collective-bargaining agreement, players must be 19 and one year removed from high school before being drafted into the NBA. Jennings’ Italian deal would allow an NBA club to draft him next year and pay a buyout fee to the team, a standard practice with European players, Vaccaro said.

Vaccaro said in mid-July that he was talking to three shoe companies about Jennings, who he thinks will get a better deal than many NBA draft picks signed this year.

Brandon Jennings is taking off
for Italy, but his adviser thinks
only the most talented prospects
will be able to follow.

“If Brandon chooses to pick [a shoe company] this year, he will get more than seven figures a year,” Vaccaro said. “He is a trendsetter. It takes guts to do this, and people like this.”

As for the parents recently calling him for advice about Europe, Vaccaro cautioned they were merely gathering information and nowhere near making a decision.

“I think four or five kids, maximum, a year” may take the European route, Vaccaro said, adding that those same players would have likely been drafted out of high school if the NBA had not put the age limit in place in the 2005 labor deal.

“The only ones we are talking about are the O.J. [Mayo]s, the Brandons, the McGradys, the Kobes, the LeBrons,” Vaccaro said. “And those four or five kids should not be forced to go to school for six months.”

Jennings’ interest in getting a European pro team contract came after he heard Vaccaro talking about it as an option for high school stars during a larger discussion of the O.J. Mayo investigation on a Los Angeles radio station. Vaccaro said, “I said, ‘If they didn’t have to go to college, there would never be an investigation.’”

Jennings’ choosing Pallacanestro Virtus Roma over Arizona, Vaccaro said, “is not going to break down the system. But it is going to break down some asinine rules.”

BAGGING A LION: Priority Sports & Entertainment agent Kenny Zuckerman has signed Detroit Lions offensive guard Stephen Peterman for representation.

SFX BASEBALL SIGNS LESTER: SFX Baseball, the Chicago-based MLB player representation firm formerly owned by the old SFX Sports, has signed Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester as a client.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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