THE PLANK APRIL 23, 2009
The NBA playoffs may be under way, but the biggest basketball story of the moment--and quite possibly the year-- is the news that Jeremy Tyler, a 6'11" 17 year old from San Diego, will bypass his senior year of high school to play professionally in Europe. After two years in Europe, if everything goes according to plan, Tyler will then return to the U.S. and enter the NBA draft. (According one general manager who spoke to Dan Wetzel, Tyler is good enough to play in the NBA right now.) I first heard about Tyler last year, when I was writing this piece on Sonny Vaccaro. At the time, Vaccaro was searching for a high school star to circumvent the NBA's "And One" rule by going to play in Europe instead of in college; and he believed he'd found one in Tyler, who was then just a high school sophomore but who had the talent--and, more importantly, in Vaccaro's estimation--the emotional and intellectual maturity to make a go of it overseas. But in my conversations back then with Vaccaro and Tyler's father back then, neither gave any indication that they were thinking Tyler would forego high school, rather than just college, to play in Europe.
I think there are a couple ways to think about this move. On the one hand, it does make me a bit uncomfortable that Tyler's going to be skipping a year of high school, as opposed to just college, to play overseas. But when I think about it more, I'm not really sure if this is an important distinction, since top-flight high school basketball is now as professionalized (and, in many instances, as corrupt) as it is in college. As Wetzel lays out in his article, Tyler had these three options if he didn't go to Europe:
1. Spend the next year at his local school, San Diego High, where he
faces quadruple teams and isn’t experiencing much development; or
2. Transfer to a basketball factory in some rural outpost back East
which has a big-time team but resembles a traditional high school in
name only; and then
3. Play college ball for a few months dealing with NCAA limitations
on practice time and coaching contact while competing against many of
the same guys he has the last few years.
I think the biggest question about Tyler's decision is whether he would have made it if the NBA didn't have its "And One" rule. In other words, would he have completed high school if he knew that, once he did, he could go straight to the NBA? As I wrote earlier this week with regard to John Wall, the "And One" rule helps everyone but the athlete himself and it should be abolished. But now I wonder, even if it is abolished, will it really matter? Will Tyler's move trigger a paradigm shift, in which it becomes routine for the very best schoolboy players in the States to drop out of high school and play in Europe before going to the NBA? And if another players do that, is it possible that one day, the quality of play--not to mention pay--will be high enough in Europe that some of them might just stay there rather than come back to play in the NBA? It was pretty obvious why the NBA and the NCAA loved the "And One" rule, since it served both of their interests. But now it looks like it might have backfired on them.