Jeremy Tyler was the grand experiment for American basketball. Brandon Jennings spent his obligatory one year between high school and the NBA playing in Rome and Jennings went through his lumps learning to be a professional. Tyler though was something different.
Tyler opted to skip his senior year of high school and turn professional two years ago. It was an unprecedented move by an American player with such a high profile. Tyler would spend two years as a professional overseas before declaring for the draft. What made the move all the more shocking was that Tyler was considered a potential top-five pick before his decision.
If the NBA’s one-year rule were not in existence, Tyler likely would have stayed in high school for his senior year and gone in the lottery of the 2010 Draft.
Except Tyler did not have that option. And he felt his best chance to improve as a basketball player would come from turning professional a year earlier than Jennings had and learning basketball in the line of fire.
Tyler signed with Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli SuperLeague in 2009 and seemed to immediately face problems. As a young, raw athletic power forward, Haifa brought him along slowly. Probably a little too slowly for a player who was a top high school prospect and 28.7 points per game at San Diego High School. Tyler butted heads with his coach and played in only 10 games that season, averaging 2.0 points per game and 1.9 rebounds per game.
Before the season ended, Tyler abruptly left the team. This gave him the bad reputation of immaturity. He was not ready for the NBA.
Tyler played last season with Tokyo Apache in Japan, where he averaged 9.9 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game and 15.8 minutes per game. He shot 51.1 percent from the floor as the 6-foot-11 power forward seemed to find his stride.
Tyler likely would have benefited from Rick Pitino’s tutelage at Louisville, where had committed before deciding to turn pro. Instead, Tyler is fighting to scratch the first round, somewhere most would have thought would be an automatic when he decided to jump overseas — Draft Express had him going fifth in their 2011 mock draft on Sept. 9, 2009 and in the first round as late as Nov. 29, 2009.
Currently, NBADraft.net and Draft Express have Tyler going as the fifth pick in the second round to Sacramento. It means, Tyler can still impress enough to climb into the first round or could slip even further down into the second round.
Any way you try to slice it, Tyler is going to be dogged by questions about what happened in Israel and how he has grown from it. Tyler recognizes that. During an interview with Draft Express (below), Tyler continued to mention maturity and professionalism as his biggest takeaways from his experience overseas. He said he would have made the same decision and that his time overseas truly benefited him.
Of course, now the trick is persuading NBA teams that he has that maturity and experience from playing professionally already to go with his unquestioned talent. He has to answer questions about how coach-able he truly is after his struggles at his first stop in Israel.
The talent is undoubtedly there as his Tokyo Apache player page describes:
“Jeremy is an athlete in every meaning of the word. He is extremely flexible with a tremendous vertical leap. He can jump off of one foot just as easily as he can off of two feet. And when put to it, he can outrun anyone down the court. His shot continues to improve, as does his timing rebounding and shot blocking. While he has the ability to catch the ball and score from 15 feet, it is his improvement of his inside post moves and footwork that is his biggest asset in the half court set.”
Tyler is still putting everything together and is likely a traditional four or a stretch-4 in the Thaddeus Young mold (except more athletic, so maybe like Michael Beasley). A team is going to take a chance on him and he is going to get his opportunity to impress both in pre-draft interviews and in (hopefully) Summer League and training camp.
It has been a long and difficult journey for Tyler to get to this point to realize his dream and reach the NBA.
Photo via DayLife.com.