After a disappointing freshman year, Milton Jennings
's sophomore season still left something to be desired from the former McDonald's All-American. Jennings is still young, however, and he possesses the same combination of size and skill that made him such an intriguing prospect in high school.
At this point, it seems safe to project Jennings as a face-up power forward given his skill set and development at Clemson. At 6'9 with long arms and a developing 225-pound frame, he has solid size for his position, even if he must continue to get stronger. He is a decent athlete, quick in the open floor and very fluid, albeit not overly explosive, but he rarely plays to his athletic strengths due to his somewhat tentative nature and affinity for operating on the perimeter.
By the numbers, Jennings improved quite a bit last season, averaging 8.3 points per game and 16.6 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted. On film, he showed greater versatility, though with many of the same issues he struggled with as a freshman.
According to Synergy Sports Technology, 44% of Jennings' shot attempts came on jumpers, where he made just 31% of his attempts. He seems to have better potential in this area than the numbers would indicate, especially when his feet are set. He has good shooting mechanics and fluidity in his shooting motion, and very good touch. His mechanics disintegrate, however, when he's guarded or if he has to shoot off of the dribble. His 77.2% FT at least suggests his potential as a jump shooter, but he must find a way to improve upon his 29.3% 3FG as a junior.
Jennings once again shot below 50% inside of the arc, a result of his lack of toughness and inability to play through contact. He doesn't possess a very diverse back-to-the-basket game, looking comfortable only when resorting to a right handed running jump hook or turnaround jumper. He also struggles to finish through contact, being more likely to attempt a soft layup rather than trying to power through opponents and finish above the rim.
While his perimeter game is still a work in progress, he has shown potential in this area due to his high skill-level and fluid nature. He must continue to polish up his ball-handling skills, however, if he wants to be effective as a slasher or as a mid-range scorer in the future. As a sophomore, he was unable to utilize his above average first step and rarely maintained control long enough to get to the basket. Far too often, his lax handle lead to turnovers instead of easy finishes.
Furthermore, he rarely looked to pass out of trouble to open teammates, though this is indicative of what seems be a larger issue of raw instincts, focus, and court awareness on the offensive end of the floor. He averaged just 0.6 assists versus 1.9 turnovers per game for easily one of the worst assist/turnover ratios in our database.
Improving his awareness on the offensive end is essential as he inherits a larger role for the rebuilding Tigers.
He shows significantly more promise on the defensive end, where his size, length, and versatility allowed him to guard power forwards and successfully switch onto wings at the collegiate level. He must continue to improve his fundamentals, add strength to his frame, and limit his fouling, a tall order for his junior season, but he shows the potential to emerge as a defensive presence at the collegiate level. He was solid on the boards last year, as well, averaging 10.6 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted.
Jennings is ultimately an extremely raw prospect at this stage, but has a nice frame work of skills to build off of. The developmental trajectories of similar players, such as Justin Harper
, suggest that the NBA is a possibility down the road. Unfortunately, Clemson's guard play, while less than ideal last season, continues to be sorely lacking to the point where Jennings may continue to struggle if he does not develop further as a shot creator. Regardless, he must continue to mature mentally and physically, while learning how to utilize his strengths in Clemson's offense and playing hard consistently on defense.