March 20, 2010

Tyler quits Israeli pro team, returns home

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JERUSALEM - Former U.S. high school basketball star Jeremy Tyler quit Israeli team Maccabi Haifa and returned home Friday, cutting short a disappointing first pro season.

The 18-year-old Tyler arrived in Israel on a wave of publicity in August after deciding to skip his senior year at San Diego High School to gain professional experience.

However, his time in Israel was fraught with problems, and he left two months before the end of the season.

"Due to personal matters, Jeremy chose to leave the team on his own will on March 18 and return home to San Diego," Maccabi Haifa owner Jeffery Rosen said in a statement. "We wish Jeremy all the best."

In the 10 games Tyler played for Haifa, the 6-foot-11 power forward averaged only 2.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 7.6 minutes. Tyler, who earned a $140,000 salary, found it hard to adapt to the pro game and couldn't find a place in Maccabi Haifa's starting lineup.

His frustration began to show. Last month, he walked out on the team at halftime to protest not getting more minutes. For the last three games, he sat on the bench not wearing a uniform after being left off the Haifa squad.

A message left on Tyler's voicemail wasn't immediately returned.

"Basically this is something he wanted to do," said Sonny Vaccaro, the former shoe company executive who's been advising Tyler and his family. "He wasn't playing. He was on the inactive roster. He just didn't want to stay anymore. Apparently they worked out an agreement and he'll forfeit the rest of his salary. He'll come home and get ready to work out for teams in Europe for next season."

Tyler signed a one-year, $140,000 contract with Maccabi Haifa in August. He was the first American-born player to leave high school early to play professionally overseas. Some had seen him as a potential No. 1 pick overall when he's eligible for the NBA draft in 2011.

Vaccaro doesn't think this is a failure for Tyler.

"Come back in five years and if he's not in the league, not earning any money, then it's a failure," Vaccaro said. "He did something nobody ever did. It was pretty damn hard.

"Was he ready to accept the responsibility of going to a foreign country? Probably not. It's quite different from Brandon Jennings," Vaccaro said. "It's more embarrassing than detrimental."

Jennings played in Italy rather than attend college. He went to the Milwaukee Bucks with the 10th overall pick in last June's draft.

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