U.S. Basketballer Leaves High School to Shoot for Israeli Team

6-foot-11 Jeremy Tyler the first U.S. athlete in history to leave school early to play hoops abroad.

Jeremy Tyler became the first American-born basketballer to leave high school early to play professionally overseas when he signed a one-year, $140,000 contract with Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli Premier League on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-11, 260-pound Tyler announced in the spring that he was skipping his last season at San Diego High School because the basketball had become boring.

"I think I made the right decision," said Wednesday evening.

"I think this team is a good fit for me and it's the right country."

Tyler, 18, averaged 28.7 points during his junior season.

"I feel good. I feel blessed," he said. "I got past the easy part. Now the hard part is to perform and show the world I got a contract for a reason. Now I can play against grown men."

Tyler's agent didn't return a call.

"I think it's a very good deal for Jeremy because it's a good team, he'll play, they speak English and he'll learn there," said Sonny Vaccaro, the former shoe company executive advising Tyler and his family. The reason we did one year was because it will give Jeremy time to understand how hard it is to be a professional, then he'll do whatever he wants to do next year.

"Vaccaro said Tyler had five other offers, including one from a team for more money, but Jeremy, his family and I decided it was more important to have a chance of playing than making a couple extra dollars. If Jeremy is who he's supposed to be, he'll earn a lot of money in his lifetime."

In early May, Tyler said he was tired of facing triple-teams, being hacked and being limited to playing the middle when he felt he had much more to his game.

"I was the best player in San Diego this year and it was boring. Next year, it would be extremely boring," Tyler said then.

"I'd go into the game with no enthusiasm."

Tyler is expected to return to the United States when he becomes eligible for the 2011 NBA draft.

"My goal is to become one of the greatest," Tyler said Wednesday.

Tyler said he likes that Israel is a small country and that the team has young talent that can develop.

"He has a tremendous upside," said Andrew Wilson, a spokesman for American businessman Jeffrey Rosen, who owns Maccabi Haifa. "He's definitely got a lot of talent and is hungry, and we're an up-and-coming team, as the team has been in the Premier League only one year, so it seems like a very nice fit for us."

Maccabi Haifa was promoted to the Premier League after a 10-year absence and earned its first appearance in both the Israeli Premier League championship game as well as the State Cup Finals. The team has re-signed forward Davon Jefferson of Southern Cal.

Maccabi Haifa opens its season on Oct. 25.

"Tyler's size and natural talent will present matchup problems in our favor against other teams in Israel," coach Avi Ashkenazi said in a statement. "We know Tyler is hungry to prove himself on the court. We look forward to him developing over the course of the season and improving our team."

Wilson said Rosen bought the North American rights to Premier League games and plans to stream Maccabi Haifa games live on www.triangleinternet.tv as a way to promote the league in the United States.