Jeremy Tyler: A Grainy Picture of Youth | Truth About It.net

Jeremy Tyler: A Grainy Picture of Youth

By
Updated: June 23, 2011

Jeremy Tyler is a reluctant case study. You’ve probably heard the story. He is the first high school junior to turn pro. No 12th grade year at San Diego High. No sticking to Rick Pitino’s coaching regimen at the University of Louisville, where he’d signed to play in the fall of 2008, a couple months after turning 17. Tyler’s name wasn’t splashed across headlines for being who some thought to be a future No. 1 overall draft pick in pursuit of March Madness glory. No, it was because he was missing out on all of that. Before he could turn 18, Tyler announced he was going to play basketball in Israel.

“I mean, I’ll be sitting here lying to you if I told you it was easy. It’s not easy. I wouldn’t advise, but…,” Tyler said after working out for the Washington Wizards on June 10, stopping in mid-sentence. It’s been over two years since his decision. Tyler’s self-confidence still seems high, but whether he would recommend his path to the NBA Draft to another high school junior is a different story.

“Because it was the best thing for me,” he continued. Later, he still struggles with his recommendation.

“I wouldn’t … I mean, {sigh}, see …. a decision like that is a life decision. It’s based on where you are in your family, where you are in your mental state, where you are basketball-wise, physically and mentally. It’s a very hard decision to make, so I wouldn’t say everybody should do it. I wouldn’t advise just anybody.”

Israel, specifically the metropolis of over half a million on the northern coast called Haifa, was seen as the ideal transition destination for a young American. Decent competition in the Israeli Premier League, a Mediterranean climate, a salary of $140,000. But ideal quickly flew out the window.

Tensions between the Maccabi Haifa team owner, Jeffrey Rosen, and the coach, Avi Ashkenazi laid the groundwork for discord, the owner being the player-advocate and the coach putting up resistance against a perceived a marketing ploy. Tyler further hurt his stock by acting like a typical 18-year old. The situation would later be criticized because he wasn’t under an American coach who might better know how to bring him along.

Pete Thamel’s piece about Tyler in the November 7, 2009 edition of the New York Times painted the picture with one line:

“In extensive interviews with Tyler, his teammates, coaches, his father and advisers, the consensus is that he is so naïve and immature that he has no idea how naïve and immature he is.”

His neighbors complained because he played his television too loud on a religious holiday. He reacted with a headbutt when an opponent provoked his juvenile mindset. He quit on his team in March 2010 with about five weeks left in the season, opting not to stick around for a playoff run. The NBA dollar signs still clouded a display of responsibility.

Tyler said he left Israel because he was only allowed practice, no longer to play. By then, he said didn’t even have a jersey, said he was replaced by another big man import, NBA veteran Mamadou N’Diaye. He left behind 76 minutes over 10 games in Israel. His 18 fouls were one less than his rebounding total. In fact, add his turnover count (8) to personal fouls and the tally (26) is more than the sum of his points, assists and blocked shots (21, 1 and 3 respectively).

In certainly didn’t go well as intended, but magnifyingly on par with what most expected of the reluctant pioneer. So Tyler left. Why stay in the same environment? On to prepare for the 2010 adidas EuroCamp in Treviso, Italy, he said. Something must have clicked, a glimmer of hope, some lessons learned. Tyler displayed talent many saw in him from the beginning, he made the all-camp team.

Another year until NBA Draft eligibility, where to next? Japan.

Chance relationships connected Tyler with former NBA head coach Bob Hill, who’d been hired to coach the Tokoyo Apache in June 2010. The hedge fund that owned the team, Evolution Capital, just happened to reside its offices not far from Tyler’s agent group, Wasserman Media, in Santa Monica, CA.

Easier competition in Japan’s start-up bj-league, a more cultivating environment, and a coach from Ohio who once mentored a David Robinson-led San Antonio Spurs team to 62 wins. Ideal walked back through the door.

Tyler’s numbers improved. Before the season was cut short due to the devastating earthquake, he appeared in 33 games averaging 15.4 minutes a contest. His 9.9 points average on 51.7-percent shooting to go with 6.4 rebounds showed marked improvement. Hill clearly made an impression.

“Everything that I had to learn from in Israel, I transitioned over to Japan. So it was … ‘I’m not going to come late, I’m going to conduct myself as a professional on and off the court.’ That’s something that I’ve been working on the whole summer before, and being with Bob Hill before the season started definitely helped,” Tyler said.

“He was in my head every single day, on my mental game and my basketball game. He was on me, kind of like a father figure, because he’s been there and he knows. Especially having him looking over me, it was a big reason why everything worked out for me in Japan.”

Over his last 10 games in Tokoyo, Tyler upped his averags to 13.7 points on 55-percent shooting with 7.7 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game. Not exactly the progress that once pegged him as a high lottery pick, but certainly enough to get teams interested and his name moving up on mock draft boards. The Wizards were his seventh workout after showings for Indiana, Utah, Boston, Chicago, New York and San Antonio. He has had several more since.

But each team is certainly trying to gauge Tyler’s personality. It’s no secret that front-office executives make use of psychological tests, and the perceived baggage Tyler carries begs for investigation. So what does he tell them?

“There’s not really too much I can say. I mean, in this game and this business, most things is talked out there on that court. So as far as baggage and negative stuff, I let all that stuff go. I’m just looking forward to the next workout, to the next day and everything. Israel and Japan, that was an experience, and I learned from it. It was probably the best decision I made in my life. I definitely would do it 10 times again.”

When asked to whom he compares his own game, Tyler quickly cites another preps-to-pros big man who has seen his own share of turmoil.

“Amar’e Stoudemire has been my model player since I was younger. He’s always been a player that I’ve wanted to model myself after. Just everything,” romanticized Tyler. “Just the way he approaches the game. He plays with so much passion and so much emotion. I mean, his story is crazy. I’ve read about him, I’ve watched almost every one of his games. The way he goes out and attacks every single drill, every single play. And the way he’s with his teammates, that’s just phenomenal.”

Tyler won’t ever be as vertically athletic as Stoudemire, but he measures at a solid 6’10.5” in shoes and has a 7’5” wingspan, equal to that of Shawn Bradley, and was the longest measured at the Chicago pre-draft combine. But more than stats and physique, Tyler needs to show he has heart. Having just turned 20 on June 12, a strong support system is still required

“He needs to look at the draft as a starting point, not an end point. Getting to the draft is not an accomplishment,” said one NBA insider with an involved knowledge of Tyler’s journey.

The path of lessons learned and no regrets continues. Does he think about what would’ve happened if he would’ve stayed in high school, gone to college? Might the prospect who once held his own against Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger in a 2009 prep tournament consider what it would’ve been like to leave college a guaranteed top five pick (as would have been the case with Sullinger had he not decided to return to school)?

“There’s no comparison to that. I feel like there is absolutely no comparison. I mean, everything will show eventually. It doesn’t matter if I go 5 or 45, everything will show,” Tyler said when asked to gauge the potential difference in options. “Eventually, that was the best decision that I could have made. Because I feel it, I know it in my heart. I’m secure enough to say that going overseas made me a way better player, mature. Made me a better teammate. All that stuff will show.”

And as limiting a window to a player’s ability we all know team pre-draft workouts to be, they still represent a bigger chance than most for Tyler to show something.

“Every time I go into a workout, nobody is familiar with me as a player and as a person,” Tyler relishes. He also says Hill has helped him grow toward the draft process.

“He met me about a year ago. I had a tough problem with being too hard on myself, getting mad at myself for missing shots. He just put me in a state where it’s okay to miss. And I was like, ‘I got to make every single shot’… But he was like, ‘It’s okay to miss. It’s not okay to ‘F*ck, sh*t…’’ That’s not okay,” Tyler said. “Just him drilling me every single day. Like if I miss a shot and say something two times in a workout, then I got like two 17s, and that’s hard. And then we’re going to continue to work out just as hard.”

Speak with Tyler in person and he conveys no impression of someone whom most NBA teams might consider to be carrying a red flag-worthy amount of baggage. He’s well spoken. He looks you in the eye. He offers to shake your hand after meeting.

But it’s clear from Tyler’s body language while doing Flip Saunders’ famed “7” Drill that he likes to put all prospects through, big and small, at the very end of their grueling workout with his Wizards. Tyler is getting down on himself because of several missed shots, cussing, shaking his head. When finished, the coaching staff has obviously fudged the numbers so he can finish sooner — in the drill, the count starts at 7. You make a jumper, the count goes down one. You miss, it goes up one. The drill ends when the count is zero. By my estimate, the count is as high as 12 when Tyler is allowed to stop. Frustrated, he walks to the sideline and loudly calls the drill “stupid.”

It’s then clear that the message of Bob Hill is still soaking in, that Tyler needs to grow out of his immaturity. He needs to learn that just because something is hard to do, it doesn’t make it stupid. It’s clear that he’s just 20-years old and some team is going to take a chance on him. Tyler’s story is no longer one he’s reluctant to be in, now he’s just a draft hopeful like dozens of others. Confident, but still a lot to learn.

[Video of Tyler's "7" drill...]