Jeremy Tyler is 17-going-on-pro, but is he that good?


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As a sophomore, San Diego High power forward Jeremy Tyler went head-to-head with Fairfax High junior Renardo Sidney and was outscored 33-0.

A rematch the next year saw Tyler close the scoring gap to 28-27, but Sidney’s team walked away with a 86-47 blowout victory. If it weren’t for ESPN2’s broadcast schedule, the referees would have enforced a mercy rule. Tyler’s team went on to finish the year by losing two of their last three games, not even counting three forfeit losses.

Sidney has announced that he will enroll at USC in a few months, assuming he manages to pass the SAT (a concern of some experts in the recruiting world). (Update note: Sidney now apparently will not play at USC.) The younger Tyler has announced that around the same time, he expects to be making a six-figure salary playing professional basketball in Europe -- completely bypassing his senior year of high school.


Here’s an SAT prep question: Based on the information given, what doesn’t add up?

Answer: All of the above.

Tyler’s decision poses a lot of important questions about the architecture of amateur athletics, and the answers aren’t as easy as filling in a bubble. It’s more about thinking outside the box.

Even as a highly regarded prospect, originally committed to Louisville after considering UCLA and USC, it seems a stretch that the 6-foot-11 teen would be the first known American player to skip his senior year of high school to turn pro overseas.

Tyler won’t be eligible for the NBA draft until 2011. When the time comes, some scouts think he could be the top overall pick. Over the years, the same has been said about plenty of other players who fell short of that goal. Some recruiting services have Tyler ranked as only the third- or fourth-best junior at his position. Most casual fans still wouldn’t know his name for a few more years. Then came the announcement.

Fox Sports Radio broadcaster Petros Papadakis was incredulous about the situation on his show Tuesday, raising questions about the involvement of hoops marketing guru Sonny Vaccaro. A staunch opponent of NBA rules requiring players to wait a year after high school before entering the league’s draft, Vaccaro was recently involved in the decision of former prep star Brandon Jennings to skip college and go to Italy for a season.

Is the Tyler announcement just a hoax by Vaccaro to put more pressure on the NBA to change its position? The kid seems completely serious, even if it sometimes seems hard to take him seriously.

‘If I go to college and fill up an arena with 30,000 people, I don’t get a penny,’ Tyler was quoted in the New York Times’ Quad blog. ‘In my profession with what I’m doing in my life, it doesn’t need a full college degree.’

Tyler might be a big draw, but 30,000 butts in seats is too much credit for any one-and-done diaper dandy. In January, 750 fans showed up to watch his biggest test -- and that game also featured Sidney and the rest of state powerhouse Fairfax High. The popularity of college hoops is on a different scale than high school, so maybe we’re comparing apples and basketballs. But it’s fair to say Tyler doesn’t have the same prep school notoriety of LeBron James or, until this week, even O.J. Mayo.

Tyler doesn’t seem like the most likely of players to defy basketball ‘farm league’ conventions, but maybe that makes his decision more compelling. For a player who may never make a first-team All-America list, he can still make an luxurious living and continue his own personal growth and development. Besides classes he may take during his year(s) abroad, Tyler plans on earning his G.E.D. -- and there’s nothing stopping him from going to college later in life. He won’t exactly need a scholarship with a few million dollars, er, Euros in the bank. With Vaccaro on his side, Tyler might earn his first million before returning to the states. Most parents are relieved when their kid returns from a trip to Europe without going broke.


Overseas leagues have seen pros as young as 14, so who can fault Tyler for trying to legitimately earning a big paycheck? We don’t blame child actors for their success, why start with an athlete? From a business standpoint, both are entertainers.

It can also be argued that Tyler will expose himself to a far higher level of competition than he would have faced the next two years -- certainly better than as a high school senior. Don’t we usually applaud people for taking on their greatest available challenge?

And maybe Tyler really is the next big superstar. It’s obvious that he’s head and shoulders above his peer group -- on several levels -- when you look him up on YouTube. For the next couple of years, that’s probably the only place you’ll see any regular highlights. Unless he actually does draw 30,000 fans on his own. Then it might be worth buying a satellite package.

For more reactions to Tyler’s announcement, check out the coverage on Money Players.

-- Adam Rose