Tyler quits Maccabi with 5 weeks left

Updated: March 20, 2010, 7:18 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

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.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Tyler
AP Photo/Tara Todras-WhitehillJeremy Tyler, warming up before a November game in Israel, averaged only 2.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 10 games.

However, his time in Israel was fraught with problems, and he left five weeks 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 Jeffrey 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 reportedly 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.

Tyler's agent said he wasn't aware of his client's plans to leave the team.

"I'm as surprised as you are. We had no idea he was coming home," Makhtar Ndiaye of the Wasserman Media Group told ESPN's William Weinbaum. "I'm speechless at this point and look forward to speaking with Jeremy. A contract, a learning process -- things weren't great -- but it was part of growing up. I'm disappointed and frustrated."

Tyler's disappointment was evident, too. 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.

Ndiaye said he spoke to Tyler earlier this week and "everything was cool."

"The kid decided on his own," Ndiaye said. "We did everything humanly possible to make it a success story for him and his family."

Sonny Vaccaro, an adviser to Tyler and his family, told ESPN the season in Israel wasn't a negative experience despite how it ended.

"Nothing was lost here -- he went, it was hard, it was eight months," Vaccaro said. "It would've been beautiful, utopia, if he had played and helped his team win a championship."

Vaccaro said Brandon Jennings, a star rookie for the Milwaukee Bucks, didn't show very much in his stint overseas, either.

"Five or six NBA scouts have told me recently to just have Jeremy come home and start practicing, that the experience in Israel is not detrimental to his future," Vaccaro said.

Vaccaro, who said Tyler would be able to sign another deal to play somewhere in August, added there's another year before Tyler would be eligible for the NBA draft, and that he didn't understand "everyone's rush to judge him."

"He's got talent and is not a bad kid," Vaccaro said.

As for the implications of the Tyler episode for the NBA's ban on high schoolers playing in the league, Vaccaro said: "If that option were allowed, he could have gone to the NBA [in tryouts] and seen if he could make it.

"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." Information from The Associated Press and ESPN's William Weinbaum was used in this report.

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