The old adage goes "beware what you wish for, because you just might get it." Jeremy Tyler, Maccabi Haifa's highly touted 18-year-old schoolboy from San Diego, turned pro this summer for an opportunity to improve his game by playing against men.
In Tyler's inauspicious professional debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv in Sunday's season opener, the 2.11 meter power forward played like a babe in arms. Tyler was in the starting lineup, but appeared hesitant and unaggressive while contributing only one point and two rebounds in less than 10 minutes of action. Tyler sat on the bench through the entire second half as Haifa coach Avi Ashkenazi attempted to keep his club competitive.
Maccabi Tel Aviv triumphed 76-68, after leading throughout most of the contest.
Sunday's game will go down as either a humble beginning to a big career or another example of an American teenage star who made a poor career move. Veteran basketball analyst Simmy Reguer summarized Tyler's performance in one word, "soft," as Maccabi Tel Aviv's big men consistently dominated him under the boards.
The learning curve between American college basketball and the Israeli Premier League is so steep that many teams here are reluctant to sign American players with no previous pro experience, so the road from the junior year of high school ball to Israel's Basketball Super League is more like falling off a ski slope. Tyler drew wide media attention this summer, as the first American schoolboy to turn pro before completing high school, when he skipped his senior year at San Diego High School and reneged on his commitment to play for Louisville in 2010.
When interviewed this summer, Ashkenazi claimed he expected little of Tyler at first, but felt he should be contributing toward the end of the season. "This is what I was expecting," Ashkenazi said after Sunday's defeat, but admitted that "of course I was hoping for more." Ashkenazi says at present that he plans to continue using Tyler for about 10 minutes a game.
Tyler's real education begins now. He will need to work hard and develop the mental toughness of a man, in order to succeed in the man's world he has newly entered.