Posted Jun 7 2011 11:18AM
Only Jeremy Tyler. Only Jeremy Tyler could big foot his way up the draft board specifically by not playing, just as he didn't play his senior season in high school in San Diego and didn't finish his 2009-10 in Israel and couldn't finish his 2010-11 in Japan.
If his worldwide basketball odyssey has been unpredictable, it's nothing compared to his latest move, where Tyler blows teams away with conversation. That's it. Just by talking.
In interviews with team executives, Tyler has shown himself to be more than a perceived ungrounded basketball soul wandering the globe in search of the next new start, and has impressed clubs with his maturity and ability to address his image -- even spinning his tangled past into a positive. In a month's time, Tyler has so impressed teams that he has moved from being considered a question mark of a player pegged for the second round to now appearing firmly on course for at least the mid-20s and possibly higher still, considering the Knicks, picking 17th, had him in for a workout Monday.
The surge started the third week of May at the Chicago pre-draft camp, where his measurements told a conflicting tale. Heading toward a June 23 selection night woefully thin on centers, Tyler measured 6-feet-10 ½ and 262 pounds, with big hands in confirmation of a unique presence. That was the good news. The bad news was he posted the second-highest body-fat percentage among the 54 prospects who took physicals. Fortunately for Tyler, the parts that could not be measured were what stood out.
"Jeremy Tyler was the best interview I had in Chicago the last two years," one personnel boss beamed. "It wasn't just the interviews. It was how he carried himself. It was the way he approached it. I thought, 'Spoiled, pampered AAU guy. Bad background.' But he was articulate. He was polished. He came across really well."
Said another: "He was much more charming in his interview than I ever would have imagined."
This is so... so... him.
Tyler has always been about the unpredictable. On the NBA radar while at San Diego High, he left after his junior season to turn pro in Israel but was lost at every turn, from missing the initial flight overseas because he did not know he would need his passport to being criticized by Maccabi Haifa coaches and teammates for a poor approach. He shocked everyone by quitting before the end of the season.
Tyler went to Japan for 2010-11, the final season of waiting before being eligible for the NBA, and played in Tokyo for Bob Hill, the former coach of the Knicks, Pacers, Spurs and Sonics. When the killer earthquake and tsunami struck in March, the league cancelled the reminder of the schedule, and Tyler returned to the United States with a second consecutive incomplete season.
Three teams, three countries -- three continents -- in as many seasons created a lot of front-office skepticism. It is why, come May and June and the final drive to the draft, nailing the conversations with team officials was more important to Tyler than probably anyone else in the draft.
"For sure," one of the executives said. "If he's poor in an interview, you're probably going to cross him off your list."
That's how little clubs wanted to ache through his continued growing pains they saw coming on their time. Instead, they have heard from a prospect who seems to have learned from his mistakes and, if anything, has responded to the setbacks so well that he may be more prepared for the NBA world than a lot of players who spent years in college or with the same team in Europe.
"The issue isn't physicality," a general manager said. "The issue is whether he loves to play. I think he's the guy who was 6-9 in high school and told he was supposed to play basketball."
There is still a lot of convincing to be done, in other words. Nevertheless, it's an encouraging start to the NBA career he hopes to embark on. Despite the country hopping and the maturity questions and the lack of improvement on the court at various times, this is another new direction. As only Jeremy Tyler could find.
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