GREENBURGH, NY – Jeremy Tyler has been through more as a 19-year-old aspiring professional basketball player than most his age.
For those who need a refresher, Tyler made the controversial decision to leave San Diego High School after his junior year in 2009 to embark on a pro basketball career overseas.
The experience certainly wasn’t memorable at first for the 6-11, 255-pound center, who quit his first team –Maccabi Haifa of Israel– with two months left in the season.
Tyler went back overseas the following season and played with Tokyo Apache of Japan’s pro league under former Knicks coach Bob Hill. Tyler called it a “great learning experience” to play under Hill.
“He’s been everything I can possibly want in a mentor, a coach and a father figure,” Tyler told reporters yesterday after his pre-draft workout with the Knicks. “I was [in Japan] by myself.”
Tyler was an improved player in Japan and averaged 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds in just 15 minutes per game. Tyler averaged seven minutes in just 10 games for Maccabi Haifi.
His season in Japan was cut short after the earthquake.
“It’s unimaginable,” Tyler said. “It was something I’ve never seen before in my life.”
The earthquake couldn’t have come at a worse time for Tyler, who was fresh off a 24-point, 14-rebound effort the night before. It was his first start of the season.
Tyler's improvement notwithstanding, he couldn’t get past the devastation caused by the earthquake and left for home a week later.
Said Tyler: “We had a couple of team meetings. We kind of thought everything was going to settle down and get back to normal. The aftershocks were just too big and the radiation and all of that stuff. People were dying. Coach said he feels uncomfortable playing a fun sport in a country where thousands of people are losing there families.”
Tyler said he has no regrets leaving high school early.
“If I could do it 10 times again I would,” Tyler said. “I feel like I wouldn’t be who I am now if I didn’t make that decision. Everything happens for a reason.”