Posted Jun 15 2011 6:19PM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Two years after leaving high school early for a career as a professional basketball player, Jeremy Tyler is about to find out if he's good enough for the NBA.
After a short -- and less than stellar -- stint in Israel and a year in Japan playing under former NBA coach Bob Hill, the 19-year-old is going through a final week of workouts for the draft on June 23.
His latest stop was in New Jersey on Wednesday, where he joined five other players showcasing their talents for the Nets. It was his eighth workout. Five more are scheduled for the 6-foot-10, 260-pound center-forward from San Diego who was considered one of the country's top high school players.
"I just want the honor of playing in the NBA and showing I belong," said Tyler, who will turn 20 Tuesday, two days before the draft.
Tyler had to wait two years to become eligible for the draft, and his journey over that period has been long and trying. But it's a journey that he has no regrets taking.
"I wanted to grow up," Tyler said. "I wanted to challenge myself on the basketball court and I wanted to challenge myself as a young man."
Tyler's first year as a pro was not memorable. He went to Israel with a contract for $140,000 and played 10 games for Maccabi Haifa, averaging 2.1 points, 1.9 rebounds and 7.6 minutes.
The numbers were ugly, and Tyler was vague when asked what went wrong. Part of the problem was coaching. Part was maturity ... or lack of it. A big part was simply being 17 years old, living in a foreign country, and not having a support group with him.
"It was frustrating the first year," he said. "I was killing them in practice, but I had to realize it was not all about dunking. Really, it's just not scoring a bucket."
There were other factors: playing defense, being a better teammate, the list goes on.
Japan was different.
Playing with Tokyo Apache in the Basketball Japan League under Hill, Tyler averaged 9.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 15.4 minutes.
"He has been everything I always wanted, a great role model, a great leader, father-figure, coach," Tyler said, adding he learned every day from the former coach of the Knicks, Spurs, Pacers and SuperSonics.
The Nets didn't let the media see much of Wednesday's workout, but Tyler was paired against JaJuan Johnson of Purdue for most of that time. He held his own, but did nothing extraordinary.
"Being overseas has definitely been an advantage," Tyler said. "I see it. I feel it. I know it. I mean there is a lot of good guys in this draft and a lot of good guys been with all these teams. I am not going to knock their game. They are all good, but I feel like I view basketball in another way where I'll be successful in the NBA."
Tyler described his game as versatile. He says he can shoot well, play either outside or in the paint and can do whatever is needed. Defense has never been a problem.
He believes he will bring intensity to the court and is a good teammate.
"Right now, I am just having fun coming to show what I can do and being the best that I can be," Tyler said. "Hopefully, I catch some eyes and some interest."
Tyler has no idea where he will be drafted, but he believes he has not taken any steps back in the past two years.
His advice to players, who might be considering leaving high school early, is to understand that it is not going to be easy.
"Don't do it to make money," he said. "Do it to get better."
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