“Why would we waste his time holding him back? Kobe was only 17 and he blossomed. And Lebron blossomed. Howard blossomed. Why not give my son that chance?”.
That is how James Tyler rationalized sending his son, Jeremy Tyler, off to play professional basketball for Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli Basketball Association instead of finishing his senior year at San Diego High School.
Tyler was the 39th pick in the 2011 NBA draft and is set to become a part of the Warriors roster this fall.
While college is supposed to filter out players who struggle to succeed at the next level, the Tyler family had faith that Jeremy could play at an even higher level. James Tyler offered further insight into the decision.
“He was bored in high school, he’d just get the rebound and shoot it back in the hole. As a parent, all you want to see is your kid strive to be his best”.
An argument could be made that college also allows a player to finish developing physically against lesser competition before banging in the paint against blocks of steel like Gerald Wallace. Some prime examples could be Jonathan Bender, Shaun Livingston, Sebastian Telfair, and Andrew Bynum. All 4 struggled to succeed right away (or ever) due to injuries and/or size except for Bynum who seems to be turning a corner.
Before I jump on that bandwagon, we can’t forget guys like Monta Ellis. Ellis is one of the many success stories since the high school to NBA wave started in 1962. Ellis came straight out of Lanier High School in 2005 and was averaging 16.5 points per game for the Warriors by his second season. James Tyler fed the barbaric hype machine by comparing his son to the likes of Kobe, Lebron, and Dwight as opposed to other successful high school to NBA players lacking superstar status such as Josh Smith, J.R. Smith, and Andray Blatche.
‘Go big or go home’ must be his motto.
Blatche dunked on me a few times at a Can-Am hoops Classic tournament in Potsdam, NY about 10 years ago. It looked like something out of Preps: Chicago Hoops Classic (2001), featuring guys like Eddy Curry and Will Bynum. The only difference was that I wasn’t asking for an autograph following the game because I had too much pride after getting posterized by him. Needless to say, we lost that game by 50+ points.
What kind of context does that give you regarding Blatche’s ability to advance straight to the NBA? Not much. That’s what competitive teams such as Oak Hill Academy and City Rocks AAU basketball are for. That’s what the ABCD Camp and the Nike Hoop Summit are for. They provide an opportunity for top young players to compete against each other, an opportunity that the Tyler family decided to forgo as well. It’s not completely crazy to call him a prospect regardless of the context when Reebok is feeding a 3 year old to the hype machine.
Monta Ellis had a poor showing at the McDonald’s High School All-American game and didn’t do that well at the Hoop Summit either. That didn’t stop anybody from drafting him out of the City With Soul, Jackson, Mississippi. It took some time to improve Monta’s attitude but he has developed into one of the top 10-15 combo-guards in the NBA and provides the Warriors with a fair amount of trade value. That’s if they choose to trade him.
”It may not be the best way to get to the NBA, but it’s the best way to get ready for the NBA,” Tyler said in an interview after deciding to join a pro team overseas.
Tyler joined Maccabi Haifa, a team in the most competitive division (The “Super League”) of Israel’s professional league and averaged 2.1 points and 1.2 rebounds in just over 7 minutes per game over a 10 game period. He reportedly walked out of a game at halftime protesting his lack of playing time. He was rewarded for that action with 3 games riding the pine in street clothes until he decided to quit and return to San Diego citing “personal reasons” as the culprit.
Tel Aviv’s daily newspaper, Haaretz reported that Tyler “averaged about 2 points, 2 rebounds, and two temper tantrums a game”.
At that point, the consensus seemed to be that Tyler wasn’t mature enough, mentally and physically, to play at a higher level. Tyler wasn’t home for long before he decided to join the Tokyo Apache professional basketball team under former NBA coach, Bob Hill.
Tyler averaged 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds in 15.4 minutes per game with the Apache. Tyler was alone in Israel and had obvious signs of immaturity while there. He got the opportunity to play for a passionate and experienced coach that was willing to put in the work to help Jeremy develop.
“When he talks, you listen”, said Tyler of Hill after 8-9 months under his coaching style.
While Hill offered his formula for Tyler’s improvement.
“I’ve had to break him, I’ve had to get to a point where he says ‘that was my fault’, to take accountability for his actions”.
While Tyler received the hard nosed emotional support from Hill, he also received some practical on court support from Apache teammate and former 2004 NBA draft pick, Robert Swift. Swift reported that he helped Tyler with his footwork and gave him the individual attention he needed to develop and strengthen some aspects of his game.
Swift didn’t value dropping 20 points every night as opposed to getting control over Tyler’s “happy feet” and developing individual parts of his game. Those parts will hopefully meet up and complement each other. The reports from people familiar with the Tokyo Apache were much more positive than the reports following his stint in Israel.
NBA Scouts were able to get a clearer picture of Tyler’s potential after he played alongside and under people familiar with the NBA drill. The current consensus on Tyler is that he is athletic for his size (6’10” 260 lbs.), transitions well from one end of the floor to the other, can finish strong and provide the offense lacking in guys like Ekpe Udoh and Andris Biedrins, and has more confidence than Batman.
Until the lockout ends and Tyler actually gets on the court, readers will hear the words “young” and “raw” surrounding his projected impact to the Warriors roster. While those are very general terms, it’s still very hard to speculate how overseas play translates to the NBA. Just look at Darko Milicic and Kwame Brown.
Part of me is excited to see if Jeremy Tyler and Brandon Jennings will set a precedent for other young players that believe they won’t improve in college.
About the Author
Written by Chris Mosca
Basketball lover for years. I blog for the Golden State Warriors. I am happy to serve the fans with my reports and insights. Follow me on twitter, @cwmosca