Thursday, April 23, 2009

Skipping prom for the pros

That would be Jeremy Tyler, one of the nation's top basketball recruits in the Class of 2010:

Tyler, 17, will become the first player born in the United States to leave high school early to play professional basketball overseas. He is expected to come back in two years, when he is eligible for the NBA draft.

Tyler had made a verbal commitment to play for Louisville. (He) has not signed with an agent or professional team. He will probably play in Spain, the Times reported, though teams from other European leagues have shown interest.

"Nowadays people look to college for more off-the-court stuff versus being in the gym and getting better," Tyler told the Times. "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."

Pretty much. As an aside, it's not surprising in the least that the first player to challenge the hoops establishment hails from California (the late Ralph Wiley once wrote that California "has always represented a new start, a new world, a place where one didn't have to act as one had been taught to act.")

He'll need that pioneer spirit to endure an unprecedented, and once unfathomable, challenge. But Tyler supposedly has the goods to make the leap - though strangely enough, there seems to be some confusion as to whether he's 6-9, 240 or 6-11, 260.

The argument for forgoing the college experience has rarely been stronger, as Compton, Calif., point guard Brandon Jennings graduated from high school last year and went to play pro ball in Europe. He took some early lumps but is still projected as a lottery pick in June's NBA draft.

No, Tyler isn't taking the easy way to the NBA. But it might be the smartest:

Tyler will play against the grown men who can challenge a player of his size and potential. Away from the court he’ll be home-schooled, earn a GED and return in two seasons when he’s eligible for the 2011 draft.

By then, Jeremy Tyler figures, he’ll be a much better player and person; having learned from top coaches, enjoyed unlimited practice time and broadened his horizons in a foreign land. He calls it “a dream job” and isn’t the slightest bit nostalgic for homecoming, prom or missing out on college hoops.

And while he’ll earn a great deal of money, he says his chief motivation is to make himself the best prospect possible for the even greater amount waiting in the NBA.

In basketball terms, it’s a no brainer. The only risk is exposure at the hands of superior competition. Tyler could just stay in the States and hide his weaknesses against smaller, less-talented opponents.

Somewhat appropriately, I was listening to Charles Barkley talk on ESPN Radio yesterday about the struggles of Portland's Greg Oden, probably the most highly touted big guy of the past decade.

Barkley now thinks Oden will never live up to those early expectations, due mostly to a very limited offensive repertoire. "I've never seen Greg Oden score when it's not a dunk," Barkley said. He's "never going to be a great, great offensive player."

Some of that, I think, is because Oden never had to develop that part of his game. He spent much of high school playing against overmatched, undersized teenagers and the occasional all-star big man who was even more limited than him on the offensive end.

So Tyler owes it to himself to chart a different and potentially more lucrative course. If he were a tennis player, a musician or an actor, I doubt there would be much talk about it - Tyler would have skipped his senior year without much notice.

In this case, the revolution won't be televised during March Madness.


Jack T. said...

Honestly, I'm not bothered by this kid skipping college. To a large extent, these kids are being pimped out by these schools. What I'm worried about is that these kids are getting rich and haven't learned anything about money and how to keep it and let it take care of you. It can end badly. I know some of them go to college and still fail to learn anything other than how to get a cheerleader's bra off with one hand, but at least they had a chance.

blackink said...

I think, for the most part, we're in agreement Jack T.

My deal is, I'd rather a kid go off and try to seize on the opportunity to make the money, especially since there's such a narrow window in pro sports. Like Tyler's father said, "Harvard ain't going out of business." If Tyler washes out, he can always go back to school and do it with some money in his pocket.

Like you say, I know plenty of dudes who played ball in school and didn't get much out of the experience. Even Vernon Maxwell went to school for four years, you know? And PacMan Jones made it through three years.

Btw, seen this:

Ryne Nelson said...

I was listening to the Heard yesterday as well. I don't think Barkley was down on Oden. Charles mater-of-factly said Oden will never be a great offensive player. On the other hand, Oden could be one of the games best enforcers on defense.

Tyler, on the other hand, I agree with you. Let the kid learn for himself. You learn from the decisions you make when you're young, even if they turn out to be dumb.

Anonymous said...

Feedback? Here's some feedback.
Time to help a brother out.

Jack T. said...

BI, that article hurt to read. But it's exactly what I thought it was. Kids who come from poor neighborhoods getting robbed by guys who know the game better. It's a shame.

blackink said...

@Ryne: Yeah, I probably should have qualified that with Barkley saying that Oden could still be a great player in the league, a Ben Wallace-type who plays D and grabs boards. My bad.

@IWant: Well, there ya go. Thanks for stopping by.

@Jack: You'd have thought Rocket would know better by now, right? Back when I used to cover the NFL, whenever a dude got cut I'd always say two things: I hope he can read; and I hope he's been living like a thousandaire and not a millionaire.

At least being one of two can go a loooong way.