11.08.2009

Celebrate the New Dark Age



The New York Times recently ran an interesting article checking in on Jeremy Tyler, the 6-11 eighteen year old who one upped Brandon Jennings by not only bypassing college, but also his senior year of high school, to play professionally overseas. Tyler landed in Israel, where his experience has made Jennings's time in Italy look like a vacation by comparison. Indeed, the most striking thing about the article is how Jennings, now five games into his NBA career, is already perceived as a success story. Much was made last year about Jennings struggling with the transition and playing sparingly for Lottomatica Roma, but everything’s changed now that he's locked down the starting point guard job for the Bucks, while averaging 18.4 ppg, 4.4 apg, and 4.4 rpg and looking like the early favorite for Rookie of the Year.

The moral of the story seems to be that, if you're willing to suck it up and adhere to European basketball's bizarre notions of team play for a year (or in Tyler's case, two years), then NBA stardom awaits. Sonny Vaccaro, the evil genius behind both players' decisions, stated the matter more bluntly by praising Jennings's willingness to "shut up and learn." Tyler, by contrast, has reportedly demonstrated the kind of immaturity and whiny entitlement that most people seem to expect from today's teenager. If Tyler fails, it may jeopardize Vaccaro's plans and those of his partner in crime Jeffrey H. Rosen. Rosen has great plans for turning his Israeli pro team Maccabi Haifa into "the preferred destination for American prodigies who want to skip college" and ultimately "a global media presence." Shades of Saperstein.



Last week, Latavious Williams added a new wrinkle to the discussion by becoming the first high schooler to be drafted by the NBDL. Williams had already done several other things you do when you're a high school basketball star with bad grades and low test scores: go to prep school for a year, commit to Memphis, and explore the option of playing overseas. It turns out no foreign team was interested in the raw combo forward whom Scout.com rated the 52nd best player in the class of 2008, so the DL and its $19,000/year contract was the only option left. Since it's unlikely Williams will ever play in the NBA, he is more of a sad anomaly than a legit test case.

Current college freshmen John Wall and Renardo Sidney are better examples, since both have the skill, size, and athleticism that the NBA actually wants. Wall was rumored to be exploring the option of going overseas, but ultimately decided to play for Kentucky, which under Calipari is kind of like playing professionally while getting to stay in the country. (Lexington is also the likely destination of Michael Gilchrist, currently a high school junior and widely considered to be the best player in the nation. Oh, and he happens to be a close family friend of Worldwide Wes.) Sidney also selected an SEC school, Mississippi State, after most every other school backed away, out of concern about Sidney's amateur status possibly being compromised. Unsurprisingly, Sidney has still not been cleared to play this season by the NCAA, and Wall's status is similarly muddy.



Wall and Sidney's situation is a reminder that Jennings was also scheduled to play collegiately (at Arizona) before the NCAA flagged his test scores, thus setting into motion Vaccaro’s machinations. It’s worth mentioning here that KG was also planning to attend college (at Michigan or maybe UNC, depending on whom you talk to) before test scores derailed his plans and made him the next gen Moses (Malone), leading a generation of high schoolers into the promised land. Remember, also, that according to the NCAA record books, Derrick Rose never played in the national championship game, because someone else took his SATs for him. To a man, these players were willing (and even wanted) to go to college, but were prevented from doing so by either low test scores or, in the case of Wall and Sidney, unsavory associations. If Garnett or Jennings had been allowed to go to college, it’s not difficult to imagine them extolling the experience and continuing to take classes the way Durant and Oden have. So, when we talk about these issues, we need to reconsider whether players are going overseas to chase the money or because the NCAA forced them out. The answer, in most cases, is probably both.

So whither Wall and Sidney? If they are ultimately cleared by the NCAA, they play a year of college basketball, increase their brand awareness, and enter next year’s NBA Draft as known commodities. But, if they aren’t, then what? Since I assume they’ve been accepted as students by their universities, they could continue to take classes and work out individually, but that seems unlikely. A last minute pro contract overseas, a stint in the NBDL buoyed by sneaker money, or maybe an agent-sponsored residency at somewhere like the IMG Academy is more like it. Maybe the humiliation of being effectively kicked out of school would give them the motivation to succeed where Tyler has thus far failed. And if it works out for them, who could blame the next hoops prodigy for wanting to follow in their footsteps and stay clear of all the NCAA drama?

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28 Comments:

At 11/08/2009 7:44 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

Question for the group:

If Kobe were 16 right now, what does he do? While KG didn't have the test scores, Kobe was an honor roll student and could've gone to college. I'm thinking he goes pro in Italy for a year (he already speaks the language!) just like Jennings did.

 
At 11/08/2009 7:45 PM, Blogger Joey said...

BRE, the answer re: KG is Michigan. Sorry.

 
At 11/08/2009 7:52 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

That's what most people say, including KG, but I've heard UNC was high on his list. At any rate, Lebron, JR Smith, and Dwight Howard all would've gone to UNC. And Kevin Durant and/or Thaddeus Young, actually. They've both said as much.

 
At 11/08/2009 7:55 PM, Blogger themarkpike said...

Kobe -> Duke. Didn't he discuss this as part of the Coach K to the Lakers courtship?

 
At 11/08/2009 8:43 PM, Blogger Teach said...

JR Smith was actually slated and ready to be a Heel prior to the Mick D's game. He was part of the class with Marvin Williams, Quentin Thomas, and JameOn Curry (who wound up at Ok St cause of drug charges).

Aren't there rumors that LeBron might have gone to Ohio St.?

 
At 11/08/2009 8:49 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Imagine this: Wall, figuring he'd rather stay in America than head overseas at the last minute, plays in the D-League with an enormous sneaker deal. He tears it up, gets the games televised, and just generally John Wall's the living fuck out of the NBA's minor league. He wins the MVP, the dunk contest, all that. Except he can't receive the ultimate prize: An NBA call-up. Of course, there's no reason this would be otherwise, but it might underline the silliness of the age limit FOR SOME PLAYERS.

Wouldn't it make the D-League look silly to have the likes of Wall in it as a one-and-done, and isn't that even worse than him taunting the NCAA with a single season?

 
At 11/09/2009 12:26 AM, Blogger MookieDC said...

Uhhh, Durant and Young went to school..

Is it really a surprise that the guy who was forced overseas was able to "shut up and learn" and is at least showing potential for it having worked out, while the guy who - for whatever motivating factors (...) - decided to go overseas on his own is acting like a stereotypical American kid? Maybe it's just a coincidence that the small sample size happens to fit like that, and I guess only time will tell, but it's really not a shock.

Good to see someone recognizing the FACT that Jennings DID NOT CHOOSE to go to Italy, of course it'd be this blog ha.

 
At 11/09/2009 12:29 AM, Blogger VictorVonRimp said...

This is clearly not a new idea, but I just felt it important to reiterate that the NCAA is the most hypocritical, bullshit organization in sports history.

BTW, LeBron was going to OSU. No Doubt.

And no, I think Kobe would go to college. The whole speaking Italian thing is a nice fit, but Kobe doesn't strike me as much of an innovator, more of a follower, ie. follow and one up whats come before.

 
At 11/09/2009 1:51 AM, Blogger Craig said...

Where elite high school talent chooses to go to school is a bottomless pit of bad for me personally. There are far too many examples of "why the fuck is this guy going to school there?" Slowly but surely I have just begun to assume that NCAA recruiting is about duffles of cash or something less savory. But 18 year olds make terrible choices everyday with far worse choices than one year of being a local god in Manhattan KS for 50 grand

 
At 11/09/2009 11:04 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

@MookieDC I know Durant and Young went to college, but UNC was both of their first choices. Durant had some sort of transcript problem (that wasn't a problem at Texas), and Brandan Wright grabbed the last scholarship before Young had a chance to.

@VictorVonRimp If Kobe wanted to go to college in 1996, he would have. How can you say he's not an innovator when he was the first non-Prop 48 player to go pro straight out of high school? KG would've had to sit out a year, which is why he jumped. Kobe was a totally different situation.

 
At 11/09/2009 11:10 AM, Blogger Bret LaGree said...

Wall's eligibility isn't muddy, he's been suspended for one exhibition game and one meaningless non-conference game and is supposed to pay back his former AAU Coach/prospective future agent some amount of money for their past association.

I'm no fan of the NCAA or the structure of college basketball but an AAU Coach who wants to be a player agent strikes me as even more exploitative and potentially disastrous to a teenager's development as a basketball player.

 
At 11/09/2009 12:19 PM, Blogger Deckfight said...

LOVE "commit to memphis."

 
At 11/09/2009 3:02 PM, Blogger Kyle said...

I think everyone is dodging Recluse's question - If Kobe was 16 NOW what would he do?

Sure he was a different case than Garnett due to his grades, so he was in a different boat than KG when it came time to make that choice after High School.

Judging by how much of his career has been about validation, I can't imagine he goes overseas or D League now. His whole career has been about taking him in the context of other great players, most notably, MJ, and wanting to be compared with them.

Going overseas doesn't accomplish that goal, it only distracts people from it. If he's 16 years old now, he tries to be Carmelo 2.0, meaning he takes a decent program with a coach he likes and lets them jump on his back all the way to a title. Then he always gets to have his face on CBS every year during "One Shining Moment" and people remember how special he is/was/(would've been).

 
At 11/09/2009 3:07 PM, Blogger Jimmy said...

Did you see that Maccabi Haifa Israeli basketball game with that kid Jeremy Tyler who is a 6’11 260lb beast who left high school early to play pro basketball…? The Guy is going to be good….. I was watching the game on www.triangleinternet.tv and Jeremy Tyler didn’t do that well, he only had 1 point but you can tell he’s got a lot of talent.

 
At 11/09/2009 3:15 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I heard their doing an ESPN Outside The Lines show on him that will be televised mid November(I found this you can see preview here http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=4606576&categoryid=3286128 !! they also have a reality show called "Inside Israeli Basketball" that will be on National TV. I can’t wait.You can see a promo video of the show @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XGKTE4hPGs . Its pretty cool. I did not think Israeli Basketball was so popular!!

 
At 11/09/2009 6:16 PM, Blogger Teach said...

If Kobe were 16 today, I see him going to Duke. He wouldn't have the option of the NBA. He's been overseas, giving it a been there done that feel, and he's not going D-League. He also chooses Duke, putting his career on a complete path to be a foil to MJ. Also, Kobe fits the Grant Hill model (professional athlete for a dad upbringing), only he's not so nice. If Kobe sold soda, it would never be Sprite.

 
At 11/09/2009 6:27 PM, Blogger W2 said...

Way off topic here...

But in light of his return to the court and his part in both looking like a bulked up Lenny Kravitz and last nights Thunder victory over the Magic (Durantzilla helped), here is a link to an interesting piece posted by Etan Thomas (waxing politics) over at Hoopshype which I see connecting to the NCAA/Tyler/curruption/whatever you all are talking about over here today.

http://blogs.hoopshype.com/blogs/thomas/2009/11/09/my-12-questions/

 
At 11/09/2009 6:36 PM, Blogger jochbe said...

@Teach--one flaw in your analysis: Kobe used to be in Sprite ads...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdfrOa6spYI

 
At 11/09/2009 6:51 PM, Blogger Ben said...

A mainstream post about Tyler that coincides with this post:

http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/basketball/blog/the_dagger/post/Jeremy-Tyler-s-Israeli-experience-thus-far-a-fai?urn=ncaab,200966

 
At 11/09/2009 11:42 PM, Blogger Paul said...

It's completely irrelevant now, but Kobe hinted about going to La Salle where his father was an assistant and the program needed a little PR boost. He and Rip were even talking about playing with each other at one point.
I don't think he would have actually gone to La Salle if he had to make the choice, but Jellybean's influence at the time probably shouldn't be discounted either, as it wouldn't be for most 16 year olds. All of that leads me to believe the Italy option would have been in play, possibly as a kind of package deal.

 
At 11/10/2009 2:24 AM, Blogger MookieDC said...

@Brown Recluse, Esq. - Totally forgot about the Durant situation, but didn't realize Young was gonna go there. I wonder how things would've been different with Young instead of Brandon Wright, who wasn't exactly the best player...

 
At 11/10/2009 2:39 PM, Blogger Deckfight said...

uh, thanks "jimmy" & "chris." totally believe kobe going to duke, he may even wish he had done it in retrospect for a one & done. but maybe overseas would've been better, kept him clouded in mystery like Jennings so he could get picked by a better team. if he had gone to college for the one & done, a perpetual lottery team would've picked him up, not the history-stuffed lakers.

 
At 11/10/2009 5:12 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

Brandan Wright's UNC stats: 14.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.8 bpg

Thaddeus Young's Georgia Tech stats: 14.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.4 bpg

Looks pretty similar to me!

 
At 11/10/2009 5:28 PM, Blogger Adam said...

@ Deckfight - The only flaw in your theory is that Kobe was drafted by the Hornets and forced a trade to the Lakers. I think I agree with the guy/gal who posited Kobe would try to be Melo2.0. Maybe Georgetown this season?

@ BRE - yeah, I don't know what the guy you're responding to was thinking - Wright was pretty great for the Heels

 
At 11/10/2009 5:40 PM, Blogger Teach said...

Wright fit that '07 Carolina squad better than Thaddeus would have. He was the perfect complement to Hansbrough on the block.

 
At 11/10/2009 7:14 PM, Blogger MookieDC said...

Their stats were similar but Wright was wildly inconsistent, even for a freshman. He also had at least a few games that I remember where he piled up #s in garbage time, and had a few where he came up very small in big situations. Granted, I was living in Chapel Hill that season and saw all of Wright's games and almost none of Young's - who could've easily been described the exacty same way - but I was left with a bad impression of Wright.

I definitely will acknowledge that Wright was the better fit for Carolina as their frontcourt was very thin, but Young was a better player (from what I could tell), especially by the end of that season.

 
At 11/10/2009 8:15 PM, Blogger Teach said...

Not trying to take this topic too far from its original intent, but it's hard to say Wright was "wildly inconsistent" when he scored in double figures in 33 out of 37 games his one year in college. Also, there were a lot of garbage time stats and minutes to go around for the Heels that year, seeing as how they won 22 of their 37 games by double digits. He also won MVP of the ACC Tourney and was Freshman of the year in the conference. Was he raw? Yes, but he was also highly effective

 
At 5/17/2013 4:55 PM, Blogger Jim Philips said...

It is impressive that there are people like him that they don't have problems with education. Those genius that we need for them in high positions.

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