This Isn’t the End of Jeremy Tyler
It’s only the beginning.
by Casey Jacobsen
Eight months ago, high school junior Jeremy Tyler made history when he announced he was skipping his senior season at San Diego HS to become a professional basketball player in Europe. Our country is used to athletes leaving college before graduating, but high school? Not surprisingly, Tyler’s decision was very controversial and it seemed like everyone had an opinion.
I’m a big believer that people should mind their own business in situations like this and let his parents and loved ones help him out, but this story was everywhere and it was impossible to ignore. The only thing I was curious about was the question of “why?” Why was he in such a hurry to be a pro? Even LeBron James, widely considered the best high school player ever, graduated from his school before his paid career began.
Jeremy’s answer to a newspaper reporter: “I was the best player in San Diego this year (’08-09) and it was boring. Next year, it would be extremely boring.”
He added this gem in another interview: “I wasn’t getting better. Each game was the same thing. I was getting triple teamed and hacked. It (high school ball) wasn’t for me.”
OK. I get his frustration with playing against inferior talent, but can’t one improve immensely at the college level?
“Pro guys will get you way better than playing against college guys. ” Tyler said.
I swear I’m not making this up.
Soon after these quotes, the 6-11 center signed a one-year contract with Maccabi Haifa in the Israeli league for a reported $140,000. He boarded that plane with all the excitement and hope one could imagine. He was going to be rich. He was famous. He was a basketball pioneer…
I wish this story was going to lead to a happy ending, but having played in Europe, I knew it was going to be difficult for a 17-year-old to adjust to a new game and foreign culture with so many expectations.
Just this past Friday, Jeremy decided the pro league in Israel wasn’t for him either. Without consulting his parents or his agent, he informed Maccabi Haifa that he was done. He quit after compiling averages of 2.1 points in 7.6 minutes during 10 total games. He quit with only five weeks remaining in the season. He bought his own ticket back home to California and it wasn’t until his team released a statement to the media that those close to Tyler found out about his decision.
I’m not writing this article to try and rub salt in Jeremy’s wounds. I’m sure the kid feels bad enough about leaving his teammates, but I just don’t understand why he wanted to skip his last year of high school in the first place. I guess he was a pioneer in some sense, though. Can you imagine any high school juniors even thinking about going overseas now?
Jeremy’s career is not over, obviously. It’s only just begun. But NBA rules will not allow him to enter the Draft for another season, so where does that leave him? His agent says he’d rather not have Jeremy play in the NBDL, but that might be his best option. I can’t realistically picture many teams in Europe wanting to sign him now or next season after what happened.
I’m not sure he thought his decision to quit all the way through. Had he consulted with his agent or Sonny Vaccaro (the man who played a large part in all of this, as well as Brandon Jennings contract in Italy last season), they would have told him to just stick it out for five more weeks and then they could devise a new strategy this summer. But now he’s going to be stuck with these labels (Quitter, Immature, Selfish, Unprofessional) that can follow a guy for the rest of his career.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Jeremy’s father asked the media to take it easy on his son and to remember this is only the beginning of his son’s basketball career…. not the end. I completely agree with his statements and I’m hoping this difficult experience in Israel will make him a better player and a better (young) man.
Remember, just one season ago, Brandon Jennings was collecting splinters on his backside in Rome during his first year as a professional basketball player. Now, he’s being mentioned as a possible candidate for NBA Rookie of the Year. Maybe someday Jeremy Tyler’s basketball story will have a happy ending that will rival Brandon’s, but it’s going to take more time. Chapter One of this novel is over…and it wasn’t pretty. I still want to stick around and read the rest of the book, though. I love a good comeback story.
Casey Jacobsen is a former SLAM High School First Team All-American and NCAA First Team All-American. He currently plays for Brose Baskets in Bamberg, Germany.