Stay In School, Kids

April 23, 2009 – 8:32 am by McD

Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel is reporting Jeremy Tyler, a 6’11” stud basketball recruit from San Diego, CA, has opted to drop out of school and play professional basketball in Europe for two years (he’s 17) until he’s eligible for the NBA Draft. Tyler was verbally committed to Louisville, but I’d say that’s gone to shit now even though he hasn’t hired an agent.

I like Wetzel’s take on the whole situation, but I can’t say I agree with it even a little. Jeremy Tyler is dropping out of high school so he can play pro ball in Europe. Fucking high school. That’s revolutionary, but not in a good way. Sort of like when the guillotine was invented.

Wetzel mentions the “bizarre” way America develops its amateur basketball players and cites the rules about college coaches, practice limits, and the quadruple teams Tyler would face his senior year had he returned to school as evidence that the move to Europe could be a revolution for up-and-coming basketball prospects.

Nevermind how bizarre it is that a kid can’t or won’t finish the most basic level of education the United States offers just so he can have a shot at being in the NBA in a couple of years. Or that pro ball in Europe actually sounds attractive.

The most insane part of Wetzel’s article is the quote from the unnamed Western Conference GM who says Tyler could play in the NBA right now. If I had a penny for every kid who could “play right now” straight out of high school, I’d have a shitload of pennies. And we all know that just being able to play in the NBA is not fucking nearly the only criterion that determines a kid’s success. Shit, this is a league that still says Mark Madsen is good enough to play in it. But how many have flamed out because they couldn’t escape the lifestyle and didn’t know how to be adults, along with being professionals?

Wetzel also mentions that Ricky Rubio turned pro at age 14 (he’s 18 now) and will be drafted early in this year’s NBA Draft. I say, why is that a good thing? Has anyone met some one who’s between the ages of 14 and 17 recently? Sure, they can play sports at a world-class level, but that’s nearly all they can do. Professional athletes have to live their lives during and after they stop playing. I’m glad Tyler’s parents will be around the whole time, but that doesn’t mean he’s any more prepared to handle life off the court as a pro athlete.

All that said, I actually wish Jeremy Tyler luck and think this could be a brilliant move on his part.

The part that I can’t get over or let go is the involvement of Sonny Vaccaro. The Tylers called him for advice, or he offered advice, or some one read the correct passage from the Necronomicon and he appeared. This article from the New York Times last year tells you everything you need to know. I especially enjoy the part where they quote Vaccaro from some years back saying what he’s doing is “morally wrong” but he can’t stop it anymore.

This is a guy who’s been preying on the high school level of basketball for decades and who is more responsible than anyone for the existence of the sleazy, corrupt AAU system as it stands today. Worse, he did much of his work as a rep for athletic shoe companies. He spent a lifetime working as an insurgent against college basketball, not out of moral outrage, but rather to make more money. And then he complains about the state of college basketball.

This is a guy who has made a fortune running the ABCD Camp, recruiting the best high school prospects to attend, and then exploiting them for the Camp’s, and his, own financial gain. Sure, the kids get the exposure, but the shoe-companies and other corporate sponsors get a great deal more. Yeah, that was him telling a very underdeveloped Sebatian Telfair to go pro straight out of high school while comparing him to Isiah Thomas and helping him get a shoe deal.

And Vaccaro has the balls to call college basketball exploitative, and to say that Jeremy Tyler is taking on “all these establishment people like this.”

Sonny Vaccaro IS the fucking establishment, only no one has any oversight over him and he has spent his life prodding and “developing” 18 year old kids with whom he has absolutely no relationship other than basketball and the money that can be made from basketball.

If the Rome that is college basketball is burning because of dirty recruiting and tons of under-the-table money, then it was Vaccaro who sold them the matches and lighter fluid.

There is nothing shadier in college basketball than “grass roots,” “summer,” or, as it’s most commonly known, AAU basketball. The development and explosion of this subculture is the reason college coaches now have to deal with unbelievably shady characters just to recruit the top players. Most college basketball coaches know the quickest way to get a relationship with a potential recruit isn’t to introduce themselves to the family, but to get to know his AAU coach. Christ, this was an issue 20 years ago!

So what happens to Sonny Vaccaro when all these kids he convinces are the greatest thing ever get injured, never become that good, screw up, or generally dont become Michael Jordan (whom Vaccaro signed to his first shoe deal)? He’s home, living comfortably while those kids who had nothing but basketball are left to live their lives with little to fall back on because he convinced them they didn’t need anything else. Vaccaro made all his money from Reebok, Nike, and Adidas. He’s comfortable. He’s rich. That’s an easy, comfortable platform from which to complain about college basketball and the NBA.

I’m speaking in generalities of course because Vaccaro works that much behind the scenes. Hardly anyone ever sees what the “retired” basketball chicken hawk actually does. He is a shady, behind-the-scenes character who is patient zero for the thousands of other sleazes who end up with “contractor” jobs with shoe companies or even end up on college basketball coaching staffs, all in the name of landing the best high school players.

And so, whether Jeremy Tyler is successful in Europe and then the NBA or not, the other college basketball establishment, the one that has no interest in improving anyone in anything except basketball and their tax bracket, and the basketball part is questionable at best, has another victim.

Stay in school, kids. And I emphasize the word “kids” since these are children off of whom all those vultures are profiteering.

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  1. 4 Responses to “Stay In School, Kids”

  2. I can’t believe no one commented on this. Because it’s the best thing you’ve done. So there. Now you know.

    By Hick Flick on Apr 28, 2009

  3. Thanks, buddy.

    By McD on May 17, 2009

  4. First things first, Sonny Viccaro certainly has a dubious past and could be viewed as hypocritical in this whole scenario. He could also have changed.

    Ok, let’s look at what Jeremy Tyler is doing. One of the big problems is that he’s not finishing HS and will miss on the opportunity to go to college.

    Regarding HS, if he goes the traditional route he’ll have his HS diploma. If he goes to Europe, he’ll earn his GED under the supervision of his parents, and/or any tutors they hire.

    Regarding a missed opportunity at college, I agree when his family points out that he’ll be able to still go to school later if desired. From reports, it looks as though he’ll earn at least $400k over 2 years. Certainly some of that money could be spent to go back home and attend in-state UC-Berkeley if he so desires.

    If he attends at a later date due to a failed basketball career (injury or lack of ability), or if he is successful and retires, I think it could also be argued that he would be more focused at school. He would not be dealing with the attention that a star player on campus receives, nor would he be dealing with the pressures of a NCAA basketball season schedule while trying to attend classes.

    So from an educational standpoint, I don’t think Jeremy is missing much (if anything). From a basketball standpoint, going to Europe also seems beneficial. Better coaching, more practice time, better competition. Its all been outlined.

    Financially, Jeremy seems to benefit from this arrangement as well. In the long term, if he’s not a NBA-caliber player, then he simply is not a NBA player, and going to Europe does not change this. If this is the case, then he may have helped his overseas stock by coming over early and putting himself in that environment.

    The only downside I could see going to Europe here is that endorsement money may go down. By not being in March Madness, he will almost certainly be less marketable to Americans. This is probably only a large problem if he is a lottery pick as I don’t imagine lower drafted players get much in endorsement money.

    So to summarize his decision to go to Europe and its positive/negative impact…
    Education: Push
    Basketball: Positive
    Financial: Positive/Push (Push only if the endorsements slide due to lack of exposure in the US)
    Net: Positive

    I hope he’s successful over there.

    By Justin on May 19, 2009

  5. I have read your two posts attacking Sonny Vaccaro and the “sleazy, corrupt” (your words) AAU system. It is silly of you to isolate Vacarro and the AAU system as sleazy as though it exists in a vacuum.

    The article from the Times that you cite above as evidence of Vacarro’s unique evil includes this insightful selection:

    “Every sport exploits its prodigies, but none seems to cause the vast and unceasing tut-tutting that summer basketball does. Two years ago, O. J. Mayo, the nation’s most coveted high-school player and maybe the purest product of the summer system to date, picked up the phone and called U.S.C.’s head coach, Tim Floyd, to whom he had never spoken and who thought so little of his chances to sign the superstar recruit that he hadn’t even sent Mayo a brochure. “Coach,” he said, according to one account, “this is O. J. Mayo. I’d like to come to your school.” When Floyd asked for Mayo’s phone number, he answered, “No. I’ll call you.” As Rodney Guillory, an associate of Mayo’s, had explained to Floyd, Mayo wanted to market himself for a year before the draft and decided Los Angeles was the best place to launch his brand. Mayo, in effect, was recruiting Floyd. When an ESPN investigation later alleged that Mayo had received cash and gifts from a “runner” for an N.B.A. agent, his saga became a handy symbol of the ultimate corruption of basketball. But what, in the end, was harmed besides some outdated notion of amateurism? Certainly not Mayo. He played a single season at U.S.C. and then, in June, was taken third in the N.B.A. draft.

    “This summer, Vaccaro was instrumental in the decision by the prized point-guard recruit Brandon Jennings to spurn Arizona — he had not yet qualified academically — and instead play professionally overseas, sidestepping the N.B.A. entirely and making Jennings a wealthy man. (He was reportedly inspired after he and his mother heard Vaccaro on the radio discussing Europe as a viable option for newly minted high-school grads.) Playing in Italy for Lottomatica Virtus Roma, Jennings will earn $1.2 million this season in salary and endorsements. If all goes well, he will be a top-10 pick in next year’s N.B.A. draft.

    “To see Mayo work the phones, or Jennings draw a paycheck in euros at an age when he’d normally be running suicides for Lute Olson, is to see the players gaining the leverage that probably should have been theirs in the first place. For Mayo and Jennings, the supposedly dysfunctional summer game was in fact perfectly functional.”

    The manner in which gifted basketball players are exploited in the Unites States is obscene, and the biggest culprit by far is the collective decision by the NBA, NCAA, and high schools to consciously refuse to develop any sort of professional minor league system akin to those found in baseball, hockey, and soccer and to instead force young players to either play for free until they are at least 19 years old.

    If you are a gifted musician, actor, engineer, tennis player, golfer… you name it… you are allowed to actually get paid to share your skills. Not if you are a basketball player in America.

    AAU basketball and its unregulated, mercenary ways would cease to exist the second the NBA and NCAA decided to stop using young stars as unpaid performers and instead developed a reasonable system that allowed players to get paid appropriately.

    I’m absolutely thrilled that Tyler and Brandon Jennings have found a way to break the stranglehold of the NBA and NCAA. I hope many, many more players follow suit. Complaining about AAU basketball without addressing the NBA and NCAA is like complaining about a tumor without mentioning the word “cancer.”

    By Jeff on May 19, 2009

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