Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

High school junior plays basketball in Europe; world does not end

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It’s a bit slimy that shoe huckster Sonny Vaccaro is behind this trend. OK, really slimy. But it’s hard to argue that a 6-foot-11, 17-year-old already being discussed as an NBA No. 1 pick should waste his time playing high school ball.

From the New York Times:

Jeremy Tyler, a 6-foot-11 high school junior whom some consider the best American big man since Greg Oden, says he will be taking a new path to the N.B.A. He has left San Diego High School and said this week that he would skip his senior year to play professionally in Europe.

Tyler, 17, would become the first United States-born player to leave high school early to play professionally overseas. He is expected to return in two years, when he is projected to be a top pick, if not the No. 1 pick, in the 2011 N.B.A. draft.

Tyler, who had orally committed to play for Rick Pitino at Louisville, has yet to sign with an agent or a professional team. His likely destination is Spain, though teams from other European leagues have shown interest. A spokesman for Louisville said the university could not comment about Tyler.

“Nowadays people look to college for more off-the-court stuff versus being in the gym and getting better,” Tyler said. “If you’re really focused on getting better, you go play pro somewhere. Pro guys will get you way better than playing against college guys.”

When Brandon Jennings left last year to play in Europe rather than college, he had already graduated from high school. Tyler’s move could be significant because elite players who haven’t graduated could follow his path. It’s hard to argue they shouldn’t. They can make money and hone their careers — two things they might not be able to do under your usual egotistical, semi-despotic, preening college coach. Let’s put it this way — if this kid were a talented violin player, and the Berlin Philharmonic wanted him, no one would worry whether he would lose anything missing senior calculus.

Sonny Vaccaro, a former sneaker company executive, orchestrated Jennings’s move and has guided Tyler and his family through the process.

“It’s significant because it shows the curiosity for the American player just refusing to accept what he’s told he has to do,” Vaccaro said. “We’re getting closer to the European reality of a professional at a young age. Basically, Jeremy Tyler is saying, ‘Why do I have to go to high school?’ ”

Vaccaro said he was unsure how much money Tyler would make, though it will most likely be less than the $1.2 million Jennings made in a combination of salary and endorsements this season. Vaccaro said Tyler would make a six-figure salary, noting that the economic crisis in Europe could hurt his earnings.

The Times story notes that two of his high-school coaches were fired for illegally recruiting three transfers to play with him. When they were ruled ineligible, he was left with no teammate taller than 6-foot-2, meaning Tyler was subject to triple-teaming and a lot of hacking. He wasn’t going to get any better playing high school, and probably not even playing AAU ball.

There are plenty of parents spending big money hoping their kid turns into a star. If you kid already is one — a real, legitimate star like Tyler — you would be doing your child a disservice if you didn’t explore every option, as he and his family are doing. Even if Sonny Vaccaro is involved.


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  1. [...] to Europe for a year in their intense pro league instead of the relatively sedate college life, and Jeremy Tyler’s struggles with a team in Israel are less an indictment of him than necessary growing pains for his [...]

  2. [...] With great fanfare, 6-foot-11 basketball phenom Jeremy Tyler left high school — not college, high school — after his junior year to turn pro overseas. It’s safe to say that his experience did not go well. However, it’s also safe to say his experience will not prevent him from going to the NBA, which was the whole point of his adventure. [...]


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