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Europe Beckons for US High School Hoop Star
Jeremy Tyler's decision to leave prep school early causes a firestorm of controversy
David S. Elliott (de2797)     Print Article 
Published 2009-05-03 10:28 (KST)   
Jeremy Tyler
Jeremy Tyler, a 6-foot-11 junior at San Diego High School in California, rocked the American basketball establishment in mid-April by announcing his decision to skip his senior year. Instead, the precocious youngster plans to play professionally in Europe.

If his plans come to fruition, Tyler will become the first US-born player to leave high school early to play overseas for a paycheck. In 2005, attempting to stem the flow of young players foregoing college to enter its annual draft, the National Basketball Association (NBA) imposed a rule precluding teenagers from doing so until one year after their high school graduation. In response, many talented young hoopsters chose to play college basketball for one year before dropping out to purse an NBA career.

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By defying this tradition, Tyler has generated considerable controversy, drawing admonitory on-air commentaries from ESPN anchors and engendering massive numbers of posts inside Internet basketball message boards. A significant number of commentators have come out staunchly against the move, citing the importance of receiving a complete high school education and predicting deep regrets in the young man's future.

Tyler's defenders note the fact that amateur basketball is a multi-million dollar business in America, and that is unrealistic and prejudicial to prevent willing young men from pursuing their dream of playing professionally. According to published reports, both Tyler and his father James are convinced that another year of prep basketball, followed by a brief stint in college, would be of little benefit and that being exposed to professional play early on will aid the development of his game.

Considered America's top player in the junior class, having averaged 28.7 points, 12 rebounds and 9 blocks per game last season, Tyler is projected to be the first NBA pick in the 2011 draft when he will meet the age requirement and return to the US from Europe. In the first step of this planned odyssey, the Tylers are seeking both a financial adviser and sports agent before negotiating with interested professional teams in Spain, Italy and Israel. When an agreed six-figure deal has been consummated, Tyler will relocate to play against adult professionals. He will be chaperoned alternately by his father and uncle, receiving tutoring when time is available to eventually earn a GED.

To those decrying the planned overseas adventure, the Tylers note that current NBA superstars like Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic) have already demonstrated the advantages of turning professional at a young age. Critics also conveniently sidestep the fact that European-born NBA standouts, such as the league's 2007 MVP Dirk Nowitzki, routinely begin playing professionally in their teen years, raising charges of hypocrisy regarding the hand-wringing about Tyler's leave-taking.

One day after the initial story was posted on ESPN.com, it fostered more than 2,000 comments, an unusually high number of responses. The posters' sentiments vacillated widely, from praising Tyler for his courageous decision to condemning it as a "stupid" move that he would deeply regret. The issue was examined from just about every angle, from the amount of money he would make as a pro as opposed to playing for free in college, to the fact that in other major sports like tennis, soccer and gymnastics it is commonplace for even younger athletes to leave the amateur ranks. There was a fair bit of online "flaming" between posters, with some being called "elitist" for their apparent desire to deprive a young man of the ability to make money in the career of his choosing, to insinuations of racism against a young African-American male as the root cause for the strident opposition. Some claimed that Tyler would hurt his future career by playing against inferior competition in Europe, while others judged the skill level in the European Leagues to be far higher than in the US college basketball system.

It is expected that NBA commissioner David Stern will address the question of prep stars leaving the US to play overseas in the next collective bargaining agreement.

©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter David S. Elliott

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