Jeremy Tyler was a trailblazer of sorts, leaving high school after his junior year to play professional basketball in Israel for Maccabi Haifa before leaving the team in the middle of the season to return to the states. Nobody had tried the international route at such a young age before, and some called it a failure. But Tyler says it was a growing experience that has positively shaped his path to the 2011 NBA Draft, where he’s inching up the boards as a potential mid-20s pick.
After heading to play for Tokyo Apache this past year, his play began to improve. He averaged 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game before the season was again cut short, this time because of the devastating earthquake and ensuing tsunami that destroyed parts of Japan. I spoke with Tyler on Saturday about his rising draft stock, the unlikely road to the draft and his first-person view of the destruction in Japan.
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Dime: Where are you in the draft as far as the workouts, and how have those been going?
Jeremy Tyler: We get a lot of positive feedback on the workouts and some of the skill sets. For the most part it’s going out and playing hard and showing what I can do. I just go and I attack every workout to the best of my ability. Everything is going smoothly.
Dime: Just going back, I know you left high school and you went to Israel; you were pretty young then. How crazy was that being all alone and being in a foreign country when you’re the age of a high school senior?
JT: It was definitely a developmental stage of my life. I was going to grow up. Basically I was living an adult life, being an professional on and off the court. I was a kid. Israel was a tough experience, Japan was a wonderful experience. I’ve been on quite a journey. To be where I am now is definitely a blessing.
Dime: About that experience, how different do you think you would be if you decided to be if you did the usual college route? What type of different person would you have been not having that experience?
JT: I felt like I wouldn’t be the player I am now. It definitely developed me, you know, on and off the court. I mean, it was a neat experience. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. If I had to do it all over again I’d do it the same.
Dime: Do you think that says anything about your personality? You’re a trailblazer in that you left high school. No one has ever done that before.
JT: I wanted to challenge myself and challenge my talent, you know, challenge me mentally and physically. I mean, that’s with everything. I always do that with everyday life, challenging myself with things that may be too hard to do. I think everything I took out of it, Israel and Japan, you know, I make the best out of it.
Dime: Do you have any personal stories about either Israel or Japan; just a cultural thing, a funny story?
JT: Yeah. Israel was very strict on their religious holidays and stuff like that. I wasn’t too familiar with all that. So we had one of these days when I was playing music too loud on a very religious holiday. I mean as far as adapting to the coaching, I adapted pretty well. Israel wasn’t too much different than America as far as the people, the language. There really wasn’t too much of a cultural shock there.
Japan you had people from everywhere. That was definitely an experience. I had an amazing time in Japan. The group that you had around me, all the American players, teammates; they were good. They looked out for me like a little brother. I appreciated it, and I learned a lot from my teammates. I had a lot of fun.
Dime: I understand you were there for the earthquake.
JT: It affected everybody. It was a tragedy, it was devastating. We were definitely affected by it. We had to get out of there. God willing everybody got back safe. My heart goes out to everybody because it’s such a wonderful place. I still hope I can visit.
Dime: Did you see any of the damage? What was that like as far as just taking that in?
JT: What I saw, we only got the earthquake. We didn’t experience too much of the tsunami, and the radiation was a huge factor in the whole process of us having to leave. So it got too hectic, so we called it a season. I’ve been back working with coach (Tokyo Apache coach) Bob (Hill) in San Antonio the last two months.
Dime: What kind of improvements have you been working on with Coach Hill as far as your game?
JT: Everything, a series of moves that I have that I’m comfortable with, and we’ve tried to get them to perfection. I mean, he has a lot of on the court and off the court things to teach me. 75 percent of the workout is all mental. It’s just been a fun experience, a fun journey that I’ve been through. He knows what I’ve been through. It’s been great.
Would you want your squad taking a shot on Tyler in the draft?
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