He didn't come in with LeBron's hype, but Brandon Jennings is quickly becoming a big time star.
"Got any Brandon Jennings rookie cards?"
Hobby shops across North America are hearing the phrase multiple times a day. The Milwaukee Bucks' rookie guard needed exactly two weeks to establish himself as the early favorite for the NBA's Rookie of the Year.
The number ten pick in last summer's draft, the southern California native's route to the NBA may have taken a unique turn, but Jennings appears to be not only the biggest steal of the night, but a possible superstar in the making. Collectors and prospectors took notice the first ten days of the season, then locked in on Friday night when Jennings scored 55 points in a game against the Golden State Warriors. His effort was even more remarkable considering Jennings didn't score a point in the entire first quarter.
Jennings' meteoric rise has helped the NBA's new exclusive licensee. Panini's NBA trading card stable includes several Jennings rookie cards. His Panini rookie autograph cards have been selling in the $200 range over the last few days.
Jennings also has a card in the 2009-10 Exquisite series. Numbered to 225, the base cards have been running at $200-225.
The most intriguing Jennings rookie is probably his Topps McDonald's All-American rookie autograph. Issued in very limited quantities in and around the annual high school stars showcase game, the Jennings autographed McDonald's 'pre-rookie' card from a couple of years ago has jumped from $100 at the start of the season to around $225 at the moment.
Considering what Jennings, at age 20, could accomplish, those prices might be a bargain. He was the best high school prospect in the country according to a number of sources in 2007-08 but after spurning college for one year of pro hoops in Italy, some of the luster was gone. Jennings wasn't always starting and some thought he'd need a couple of years on an NBA bench to blossom. Bucks scouts saw his game in a different light and so far their work has paid major dividends.
"There were some safer picks," Bucks' general manager John Hammond told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "There was a perception about Brandon that he was a little bit of a maverick for what he did. That was not the case. He's a grounded kid."
Even without star guard Michael Redd, Milwaukee has forged a winning record thanks in large part to the former Gatorade high school player of the year.
At age 20, Jennings could have at least 15 more quality seasons ahead of him and the value of his rookie cards may be going along for the ride.
Watch Brandon Jennings on eBay