Spend 15 minutes standing in the rain above and outside the Indiana Pacers' practice court at Conseco Fieldhouse, and what you see is the distilled essence of Brandon Jennings.
There are moments when the young point guard looks like an emerging Tony Parker, a player with speed, flash, style and that unteachable something that leaves talent evaluators searching for the right adjectives.
And then there are moments when Jennings, who bypassed college to spend a year playing pro in Italy, looks like all that style has left substance behind, when his decision making is beyond regrettable.
Let's put it this way: While I don't know who the Pacers are going to take in next Thursday's NBA draft, I'm pretty confident Jennings, who came in Thursday for a workout, won't be the guy.
(And, as a follow up, I'm not too bullish on the possibility that DeJuan Blair is the choice, either. There are concerns around the league about his knees, although there were concerns about Danny Granger's knees, too. I'm hearing, though, that Blair didn't blow away anybody in his workout.)
But back to Jennings . . .
The Pacers are open to drafting a point guard despite having T.J. Ford and possibly re-signing Jarrett Jack, and that's a positive sign that team president Larry Bird is looking toward the long term rather than just next season. But Jennings is too much of a risk for a franchise that can't afford to be wrong any longer. The Pacers noticed that Jennings' team in Rome used him off the bench and at shooting guard, not trusting his choices as a point guard. He averaged 5.5 points in 17 minutes per game.
If you're going to grab a point guard in draft with a lot of them, why not go for a proven quantity, an established guy, like North Carolina's Ty Lawson?
That said, I'm rooting for Jennings to go high in the draft and have a nice career because he did something too few kids are willing to do: He stepped outside the system and used the system before it could use him.
When it became clear he wasn't headed to college -- he had no desire to go, and didn't score well enough on tests to get admitted to Arizona -- he joined with former shoe executive Sonny Vaccaro and worked a deal where he could play one year in the Euroleague.
If the NBA and its insipid age limitations were not going to let him chase his dreams, why should he waste a year languishing at some junior college? The Euroleague is the second-best league in professional basketball. Jennings got to play NBA-quality players, and learned how to survive the NBA lifestyle. Drop an L.A. kid into the middle of Rome just after his 18th birthday, and he's going to grow up, whether he likes it or not.
Jennings did it, and another Vaccaro product, high school junior Jeremy Tyler, is headed overseas for two years.
Of course, when basketball players make noise about coming out early, the outrage chorus reaches a predictable crescendo. But when a 16-year-old baseball player recently chose to concentrate on baseball rather than his high school studies, there was nary a peep of discontent.
"Of course the (NBA's age limitation rule) is unfair," Jennings said after his Thursday workout. "You're stopping a kid from his dream. You've got this 16-year-old baseball player, he's not even going to high school his junior and senior year, but he'll be making big money at a young age, just like in golf and tennis and other sports.
"Look at the NBA right now. Dwight Howard. Kobe (Bryant). LeBron (James). Kevin Garnett. All guys right out of high school who are the face of the NBA right now."
There will be skeptics who will look at his subpar numbers at Lottomatica Roma and say, "Well, he would have been better off playing a year in college."
First, this presupposes he could have gotten into college, and that's hardly a guarantee given his test scores. (Maybe Derrick Rose's buddy could have lent a hand, and a No. 2 pencil.)
Beyond that, he had to learn a hundred times more about high-level basketball playing and practicing in the world's second-best league with grown men. In college, he would have practiced against lesser players and, in most games, he would have played against lesser talents. In Italy, he was challenged every day.
"These are grown men," Jennings said. "These are pros who fight for minutes like their lives depend on it."
He was asked whether high school players going to Europe could become a trend.
"If I go top five, you'll see more kids go (overseas) early," he said. "I think I could be a trendsetter."
He probably won't be a Pacer, but I'd like to see him move up the draft charts. He took a risk where others chose to play it safe. He may be a project, but he's an intriguing one.