- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Through the first quarter of the season, Jennings, 20, has been the most noteworthy and exciting member of the 2009 draft class, averaging 21.3 points, 5.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. You're sure to hear about how he played at the same high school as Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (the NBA factory known as Oak Hill Academy in Virginia) and some will compare Jennings to Paul Pierce (both appear to be steals as the No. 10 pick in their respective draft classes).
But here's the strongest connection between Jennings and the Celtics: He was mentored by former Celtics guard Allan Ray while playing overseas last year.
Colleague Chris Broussard detailed the connection in last November's ESPN the Magazine:
After practice, Allan Ray, the former Villanova star who is in his second year with Virtus Roma, gave Jennings a pep talk. Ray got kicked out of several practices last season. "When you're The Man in high school, you can do whatever you want," Jennings says despondently. "This is something new for me, especially playing for a coach who's real controlling and doesn't take no stuff."
Ray spent the 2006-07 season with the Celtics after latching on as an undrafted free agent. He appeared in 47 games and received increased playing time late in the year as Boston battled injuries, finishing with double figures in points in six of his last nine appearances with the Green. For the season, Ray averaged 6.2 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.9 assists.
In the offseason, Ray asked for his release from the Celtics in order to cash in overseas. A couple of years later, when Jennings was unable to secure the necessary SAT scores to qualify for college ball stateside, the two became unlikely teammates on Lottomatica Virtus Roma. Neither apparently clicked right away with coach Jasmin Repesa and that led to Ray mentoring the former prep superstar about his work ethic.
For more on Jennings' journey to the NBA and his tour of Italy, check out ESPN the Magazine.
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