On Sunday, the New York Times's Pete Thamel filed a dispatch from Haifa, Israel. Why was a college sports reporter filing from Haifa? Thamel was checking in on Jeremy Tyler, the 18-year-old uber-prospect who, in the wake of Brandon Jennings's now-viewed-as-successful European experiment, decided to forgo his senior year of high school and play overseas for Maccabi Haifa.
Thamel reports that Tyler's decision is at this point -- which, to be fair, is very early in the process -- not only regrettable but disastrous. Tyler is clearly immature and distracted by the potential of NBA riches, which he apparently considers a sure thing. His coaches and teammates do not like him. He is struggling to see minutes on the court. And if things keep getting worse, Tyler's NBA draft status is likely to keep falling. These early returns are not promising. A key graph:
His coach calls him lazy and out of shape. The team captain says he is soft. His teammates say he needs to learn to shut up and show up on time. He has no friends on the team. 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. So enamored with his vast potential, Tyler has not developed the work ethic necessary to tap it.
Of course, as one teammate reminds Thamel, Tyler has been a pro for less than 100 days, and he's done so in a foreign country with few friends at an unusually early age. He deserves some slackThis time last year, people were raising similar questions about Brandon Jennings (though those questions had far more to do with ability and playing time than attitude). Still, while Tyler's situation is unique among hoopsters, he's not the first 18-year-old to enter the workforce. He's not even the first 18-year-old to enter high-level sports; by age 18, top-level soccer prospects are being thrust into intense club matches. 18 isn't old, but it's old enough to know when to shut up.
Anyway, Jennings's situation worked out, and there's no reason Tyler's can't either. So let's avoid extrapolating Tyler's situation into an indictment of the European option for recruits. For now, it's just an indictment of Jeremy Tyler, and things aren't looking good.