Jeremy Tyler has chosen to shovel his way out of the sleazy world of youth sports. Whether this move proves to be audacious or audaciously stupid remains to be seen.
Tyler, a 17- year-old high school junior who stands at 6-foot-11 and possesses an irresistible mix of grace and power, recently announced he would forgo his last year of high school to play pro basketball in Europe., Yes, high school.
Doing so, he circumvented the National Basketball Association’s bizarre policy, enacted in 2005, requiring US players to wait one year after their graduating high school class before turning pro. The hope of NBA Commissioner David Stern has been that high school grads would get a year of free exposure to college and develop what he cryptically calls “maturity.”
This has led to the “one and done” phenomenon, in which players like the last two NBA Rookie of the Year winners Derek Rose and Kevin Durant stroll into the league after just one farcical year of college. Last year, high school point guard phenom Brandon Jennings bucked the system: instead of going to college to play for free, he competed in Europe. Jennings earned $1.2 million in salary and endorsements, but his first season has been a personal disaster. He’s told stories of homesickness, culture shock and not getting his game checks. Jennings e-mailed the New York Times, “I’ve gotten paid on time once this year. They treat me like I’m a little kid. They don’t see me as a man. If you get on a good team, you might not play a lot. Some nights you won’t play at all. That’s just how it is…. It’s tough man, I’ll tell you that. It can break you.”
Unlike Jennings, a polished phenom, Tyler is raw like sushi. His high school team went 15-11 and he is judged to be years away from harnessing his skills. But given the fraudulent nature of the entire high-school-to-pro process, it’s hard to get on the moral high horse about his decision. That hasn’t stopped the sports media from strapping on the saddle.
Doug Gottlieb, basketball analyst at ESPN, said he was “vehemently opposed” to Tyler’s decision. “When did our society become completely and totally focused on the paper chase and not on the substance of the human being chasing the paper?” Gottlieb asked.
He also wonders, “Where is the value on getting an education? A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but Tyler’s handlers are not concerned with his brain, only his brawn. Tyler is not even going to finish his junior year academically, let alone begin his senior year. That means he’s forfeiting all the experiences that come with high school–no prom, no cap and gown, no SAT, no college, just hoops from here on out. Have we really gotten to this point?”