For players choosing to compete in the NBA D-League, the money earned (or lack there of) is often considered more a con than a pro. Still, there are plenty of benefits to remaining stateside as opposed to being lured overseas. In addition to being able to stay closer to home, such prospects can play out the year on squads that actually care about nurturing and developing their talents. What's more, the potential for more money is still there in the form of a potential ten day and/or full season call-up by an NBA team who has closer access to them on a nightly basis.
Plenty of doors opened for more than a handful of NBADL young guns this offseason, be it from an international or NBA contract. As such players move on to greener pastures, the potential for success for other minor league players who chose to stick around becomes much greater.
As it so happens, that's a big part of the reason why Terrence Jennings has chosen to return to the Erie BayHawks for his second D-League season.
"I'm looking forward to getting more minutes this year and playing a more steady role," Jennings said while talking to RidiculousUpside.com. "Last year I came in pretty late and didn't really know the system that well. But then I was able to go to NBA Summer League [with the affiliated New York Knicks] and the coaching staff got to know me a little bit better. I feel like I'll have a bigger role this coming season, and want to take advantage of the opportunities that come after that."
With this coming season marking an important one in Jennings' journey, the Louisville product knows just how key it will be to his success that he embraces being more a power forward in Erie. "That's what I've been known for, so that's what'll get me to the next level. [BayHawks coach] Gene Cross and I sat down and talked about me being able to establish myself as far as hitting the glass and blocking shots. I'm just trying to enhance that part of my game, so I'm working on that everyday."
Coach Cross was along for the ride as Jennings and some other potential future BayHawks (participants like C.J. Leslie and Justin Brownlee have already been added to Erie's roster) played ball in Vegas. With Cross serving as an assistant coach in Summer League, the forward was not only able to be guided by his current coach, but some others from the NBA staff as well.
"Allan Houston and some of the other coaches definitely talked to me," Jennings added. The Knicks already have scorers, so they talked to me about using my body and doing all of the little things. They need role players. If I'm able to do all of the little things, I think that'll make me more attractive. I need to show that I have more of an all-around game."
In his lone game with Erie last season (he was acquired in a trade with the Iowa Energy), Jennings scored 11 points, grabbed 3 rebounds and blocked 3 shots in 17 minutes during a contest against the Maine Red Claws. At 6'10" and 230 pounds, embracing a bit more of a big man role at times will prove to be key for Jennings as he looks for more minutes next to a guy like Leslie, who was one of the final cuts in Knicks training camp.
Still, Jennings feels as though he has what it takes to compete, and that an opportunity in the NBA may be around the corner this season. It'll come down to whether or not the 25 year old can capitalize on his forthcoming opportunity to shine.
"I just wanted to stay kind of close," Jennings said of his decision to return to the D-League. "I still feel like I'm an NBA guy. I wanted to stick around, because when other guys go overseas, sometimes they feel like they get lost in the shuffle. I want to show the NBA general managers what I can do. I want to be in their faces."
And as he looks to develop a rhythm and get things going once again in Erie, Jennings has the unique advantage of playing with a good friend in fellow Summer Leaguer Brownlee. The pair (in addition to Jeremy Tyler, whose D-League rights the Knicks are reportedly still hoping to acquire) are represented by the same agency. The forward was also college teammates with fellow Summer Leaguer turned current Knick Chris Smith, who is expected to spend time as an assignment player in Erie this season as well.
Jennings added, "It definitely helps. Obviously I've become friends with those guys. It's just good to be around guys you know. At the end of the day, we're all still trying to get a job. But we all have respect for each other and we're going for the same thing."
For Jennings, such a shot (in the NBA) would be his chance to prove he belongs. Perhaps with some early success in Erie, that very opportunity will come his way this year.