Jeremy Tyler’s massive failure in Israel doesn’t prove that all kids his age aren’t ready for professional basketball. The only thing we’ve learned here is that there is no way he was ready when he decided to leave for the pro game before his senior year of high school.
The reason that’s the only thing we’ve learned is because everyone already f-ing knew that for the most part) there’s no way a rising high school senior would be ready, mentally or emotionally, to play professional basketball. The American system simply doesn’t work that way – not even Oak Hill Academy or Hargrave Military Academy.
One of the reasons Tyler left high school is because he and his family didn’t see a point in him sticking around for his senior year and just getting his ego fluffed up by coaches, groupies, and everyone else. It’s become obvious since that point that he and his family clearly never figured he wouldn’t play when he showed up at the pro level. I have no idea what his coach’s feelings about him were, but it’s obvious the lack of playing time crushed Tyler, resulting in him walking out on his team at halftime of one game and quitting the team entirely this past week with five weeks left in the season.
Maybe there were some locker room issues, or the head coach is an ass. Anything is possible, really. It might not even be Jeremy Tyler’s fault. Maybe we all would have walked out on Maccabbi Haifa.
But that’s the point. Pro basketball is like that. There is no one to fluff up anyone’s ego or encourage them when things go badly. Jeremy Tyler walked out. He quit.
The NBA’s age restriction exists for this exact reason. As a whole, kids in Tyler’s age range simply aren’t ready to be professional basketball players. Emphasis on the “professional” part. There has to be some kids out there who are great at basketball and could transition to the NBA seamlessly, but the amount of kids who would fail is much too great to try to single the successful one out. Obviously, not all grown men can handle the NBA either (see: Jackson, Stephen). NBA teams are taking huge financial risks on kids in the NBA draft, and they are looking to protect their investments in pretty much every way possible. And if you think basketball is their primary concern, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you.
It’s not a smart/dumb thing at all.
Vaccaro encouraged Tyler and his family to take this step and was an adviser who helped them figure out where he would play. But as I said before, Vaccaro had absolutely nothing to lose by telling this 17-year-old kid to go pro. He just doesn’t like college basketball, so he figured he could screw that sport by removing a star from the mix.
Jeremy Tyler was the one with everything to lose. How much he lost remains to be seen.
That, friends, is the real lesson here. Those kids who want to come out of high school early and get into the NBA aren’t working in a vacuum. They have wanna-be agents, “advisers,” AAU coaches, “scouts,” “experts,” and hangers-on who are all telling them they should go pro and that they’re ready.
Kids who want to go pro as early as Jeremy Tyler are nothing more than victims of the other basketball system in America. Sure, college basketball has a monopoly on being the route to the NBA and it’s not entirely fair.
But now there exists a system of AAU tournaments, coaches, etc that exists solely to get kids like Jeremy Tyler to take huge risks for a shot at big rewards, but with no safety net in case of failure. That doesn’t matter nearly as much for a 21-year-old college senior, but the Jeremy Tylers of the world haven’t even finished high school. It will never be okay to prey on anyone that age, no matter what the potential benefits are. The whole point of being that age is not just to grow into a grownup, but to make mistakes and not have them ruin one’s life. That safety net for every kid in that age range is disappearing rapidly, and this is just another example.
Going to college for a year isn’t much more of a safety net than just going directly from high school, so the system isn’t perfect. But any system that thinks Tyler’s move is “revolutionary” and a good thing (as the Sonny Vaccaros of the world do) is more evil and flawed than whatever the NBA has set up.
Nothing is over for Jeremy Tyler. He’s got another year of non-NBA pro-ball left. Only now, he’s being judged as a professional who quit on his team and wasn’t playing all that much to begin with, not as a high school senior with some potential character flaws and room to grow up.
Suddenly, being quadruple-teamed by opposing defenses and having to make it to third period math class doesn’t seem like such an evil perpetrated on the talented few. Tyler is the only one who has lost anything this year. Sonny Vaccaro is still rich. AAU basketball goes on. There are a ton of other prospects who are as good or better than Jeremy Tyler who are going the conventional route and are going to make a hell of a lot of money in a year or two (hell, even Demarcus Cousins has made it through a year of college ball!).
Jeremy Tyler is still The Phenom. The Revolutionary. But now he’s also The Question Mark. The Cautionary Tale. Stay in school, kids.