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Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Jeremy Tyler: High School Junior Basketball Phenom to Play Professionally in Europe

The NBA's one-and-done rule requires that a player be 19 years of age plus one year removed from high school (with "from high school" meaning having graduated from high school or one's class having graduated) in order to be eligible for the NBA draft. It's presumed that a player will attend college in that "one year removed" and save for Brandon Jennings, it's held true. Jennings, in contrast, has opted to play professionally in Italy while waiting to become eligible for the 2009 NBA Draft (he's likely going to be a top 10 pick). In addition to living in a rent-free luxury apartment in downtown Rome, among enjoying many other perks, Jennings is reportedly earning around $1 million this year, after tax, between basketball and endorsement income (in fact, he stands to earn more in endorsement income this year than any pick from the 2008 NBA Draft, save for the top three players selected, Michael Beasely, Derrick Rose, and O.J. Mayo).

Pete Thamel of the New York Times reports that high school junior Jeremy Tyler, thought to be the best young big man since Greg Oden, has also decided to play professionally in Europe. But Tyler plans to play in Europe a year earlier than his "one year removed." Indeed, he intends to spend what would be his senior year in high school playing professionally in Europe, most likely in Spain. Tyler's decision is consistent with the NBA's age limit, as his high school graduating class will graduate in June 2010 and thus Tyler will be eligible for the 2011 NBA Draft, where he's projected by some to be the top pick.

Tyler has apparently decided that he'd like to earn income off of his talents as soon as the market lets him, rather than waiting for an artificial two-year delay, during which time he could get hurt. Some may worry about whether Tyler's emotionally "ready" to turn pro, though I hope those same folks worried about Freddy Adu and Michelle Wie turning pro at younger ages, and I hope they are equally worried that many European pro players are younger than Tyler -- Danilo Gallinari, the Knicks' first round pick last year, was a pro in Europe at 15; fellow Celtics fans may remember Jiri Welsch, he too was a pro at 15 in Europe. Similarly, we don't hear people too concerned about Dakota Fanning and the Olson Twins and the many other child stars earning income off of their talents.

Here are a couple of excerpts from Thamel's story:

* * *

Tyler, 17, would become the first United States-born player to leave high school early to play professionally overseas. He is expected to return in two years, when he is projected to be a top pick, if not the No. 1 pick, in the 2011 NBA draft.

Tyler, who had orally committed to play for Rick Pitino at Louisville, has yet to sign with an agent or a professional team. His likely destination is Spain, though teams from other European leagues have shown interest. A spokesman for Louisville said the university could not comment about Tyler.

“Nowadays people look to college for more off-the-court stuff versus being in the gym and getting better,” Tyler said. “If you’re really focused on getting better, you go play pro somewhere. Pro guys will get you way better than playing against college guys.”

His decision is perhaps the most important one since Kevin Garnett jumped straight to the N.B.A. from high school in 1995.

* * *

But Brandon Jennings, a point guard from Los Angeles, became the first player to graduate from high school, skip college and play professionally in Europe. (Whether Jennings would have qualified academically to play at Arizona, where he had signed a letter of intent, is unknown.) He is in his first season with Lottomatica Virtus Roma in Italy and is projected as a high pick in the N.B.A. draft in June.

Tyler took Jennings’s path and added a compelling twist, perhaps opening the door for other elite high school basketball players to follow.

Sonny Vaccaro, a former sneaker company executive, orchestrated Jennings’s move and has guided Tyler and his family through the process.

“It’s significant because it shows the curiosity for the American player just refusing to accept what he’s told he has to do,” Vaccaro said. “We’re getting closer to the European reality of a professional at a young age. Basically, Jeremy Tyler is saying, ‘Why do I have to go to high school?’ ”

Vaccaro said he was unsure how much money Tyler would make, though it will most likely be less than the $1.2 million Jennings made in a combination of salary and endorsements this season. Vaccaro said Tyler would make a six-figure salary, noting that the economic crisis in Europe could hurt his earnings.

Vaccaro made his name by signing Michael Jordan to Nike in the mid-1980s and has advised numerous elite players over the years. “I believe he’ll be a 10-time All-Star with his ability,” Vaccaro said of Tyler.

* * *
For the rest of Thamel's story, click here. For additional perspectives see The Week and Money Players.

For empirical research on high school players and the NBA Draft, see
my law review article Illegal Defense: The Irrational Economics of Banning High School Players from the NBA Draft and my study NBA Players That Get in Trouble with the Law: Do Age and Education Level Matter? and my research on points/boards/assists as featured in ESPN The Magazine. Also be sure to see Alan Milstein's comments from a New York Law School sports law symposium a month ago about a Taylor-like situation happening and the legal fallout.


Good for him. I support his decision. It's clear that high schoolers can make an impact in the pro basketball game. Hopefully he'll do well overseas and follow in Brandon Jennings' footsteps.

Blogger Pbenn001 -- 4/23/2009 12:06 AM  

I like this move. While I am pro age limit NBA because it is their rules, this shows that their is no monpoly when it comes to basketball. It only legitimizes the NBA's age stance.



Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/23/2009 12:49 AM  

Thank you Michael McCann for directing us to the interesting article.

Jeremy Tyler's move is ground-breaking and ingenious.

While some fans of college basketball may choose to disingenuously criticize this young man for sacrificing his "education" in order to earn money overseas, the fact of the matter is that many college basketball players are pretty much underpaid professionals in the first place. Hopefully, NCAA teams seriously start examining the need to pay its players a fair portion of the television money which flows into the coffers of the universities.

I suspect that a move such as this might cause a behind-the-scenes schism between the NBA and the NCAA. For years, the NCAA has been the primary beneficiary of the age floor. The NBA may get more polished players due to the age floor but I doubt that they truly care whether these young men receive their basketball education from a top-flight college or a pro club in Europe. Since the NBA scouts Europe more regularly these days, it's unlikely that talents such as Tyler would fall through the cracks and I suspect many teams might prefer prospects getting a taste and learning to handle the temptations of being a pro athlete prior to entering the NBA draft (e.g. money, responsibility, women, etc.).

One final note. While in the short term moves such as Tyler's may benefit the NBA (since young phenoms would get acclimated to the pro life prior to joining the NBA), this move may serve to strengthen the European leagues at the NBA's expense. I've always found the NBA age floor to be an unfair obstacle implemented against talented young men (of military draft-eligible age mind you) in order to protect NBA teams against their own shoddy scouting. With European pay scales quickly rivaling that of North America, I hope that the NBA realizes that its stranglehold on talented players is no longer absolute. Arbitrary restrictions against player movement should be viewed suspiciously from now on.

Anonymous Jason Chung -- 4/23/2009 12:24 PM  

As someone who has actually represented players in the NBA & Europe , Tyler will NOT benefit by this step. Europe presents challenges that most 22 year old college graduates do not handle well on or off the court. Injury risk will actually increase since he'll be at least 10 years younger than most top European players and much less physical. The coaches will expect fundamental skills beyond a US high school player, and living in a foreign country will be another test. I wish him well but he is getting terrible advice. BTW I represented numerous college sophomores & juniors to great NBA careers,but high school juniors are not ready for pro basketball. For every KG-who went to 4 years of high school- there have been too many others that crashed & burned. Finally, the jury is out on Jennings-he has had a very average European season and it remains to be seen how much of his financial package will actually be received by him. BTW2
Teams in Europe are experiencing even more financial problems than the NBA with all but the top 10 teams or so in Europe not fully paying all their players and next year will be worse.

Blogger George -- 4/23/2009 5:52 PM  

I wonder who advised him on that? Yes, it appears to be a good move, but Brandon Jennings himself said that he advises High School players to not go overseas. The money is good,...(great in fact), but that is all. I'm always an advocate for going to college, even if that is only for a year. Just that extra information and knowledge is great.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/28/2009 12:33 AM  

In my (rather European oriented) opinion, I can only support this move. These kind of transfers will not only increase the general level of European basketball but will also be beneficial for the players themselves.
Most talented European soccer players become a professional at the age between 16 to 18. As soon as these player take the step to become professional they really get the chance to develop their talents by playing against older and more experienced players. So from a European perspective it is generally accepted that players of his age are ready for the professional work.
Furthermore, one year in Italy will only strengthen his personality and character.

Blogger Stijn Francis -- 4/28/2009 9:47 AM  

So he should stay here and face quadruple teams and not developing his game instead of going to Europe and becoming a better basketball player? Please, let's get real for a second.

Blogger Pbenn001 -- 4/28/2009 1:55 PM  

I think it is a great idea. I mean you go to university to get a degree and make money with it.
He is getting money to play basketball, plus any other sponsor contract he might get as endorsment. Go for it, risk it, if not you go back.

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