My column tomorrow focuses on the groundbreaking jump (wait, can you break ground with a jump?) of San Diego prep phenom Jeremy Tyler from his junior year in high school to European professional basketball. The story was broken last night by The New York Times and Champ Kind of the Channel 4 News Team (“Tyler commits to Louisville and, Whammy!, decides to play in Europe instead.”)
The ramifications, of course, are significant. For starters, anyone henceforth who thinks he’s being rebellious by going along with “Senior Skip Day,” really has been once and for all outdone.
Another is that the deterrent-stat of how much less a high school dropout makes than a graduate will start to be skewed.
A third is that Sonny Vaccaro is going to start trolling the pop-a-shot booths at the Chuck-E-Cheese for grade school kids that he can entice to make the jump up to varsity, because really, who are these school systems to hold them back from their dreams?
Oh, and additionally, a bunch of high school kids will make ill-advised jumps to the pro leagues in Europe, only to find out when they get there that they can’t play, don’t like the food, don’t speak the language, don’t have a chance to go to college and don’t even have a high school diploma.
What I didn’t write about in the column tomorrow is the impact of Tyler’s decision on the University of Louisville.
And the reason I didn’t is that the kid had no shot of becoming a Cardinal. If you read his comments about college in The New York Times or Yahoo! Sports, you realize that this guy has about as much regard for education as a supermodel has for a ham sandwich.
Not that you have to do much in the way of schoolwork to play a year of college ball. If you pass just two classes in your first semester of college — yes, a couple of D-minuses are enough — you can play your second without attending a single hour of classes, then off you go.
As Tyler’s dad points out, however, why go through that and limit yourself to 20 or so hours of coaching a week when you can go play and practice all you want while making money for it in Europe? At least they’re not even pretending that they care about school, as opposed to the scores of college players who have to.
Two years ago at the Final Four, ESPN.com’s Pat Forde asked UCLA’s one-and-doner Kevin Love what classes he was taking second semester. Love had to think to name one, then came up with a course name that took about six hours for UCLA officials to even figure out actually existed. Meanwhile, Love was incredulous that he was at the Final Four, and some reporter was asking him about school.
If Tyler’s as good as he thinks he is, he’d have come here and been bored, would have worked moderately hard, and would have cared very little, really, for the school or the program. It would have been just another year to endure on his way to where he really wanted to be.
So, yes, it’s tough to lose a talented player. But to lose a guy who really didn’t want to be in your program, that’s as big a loss as it might appear.
People say this kind of jump will hurt the college game. No, the college game has already hurt itself plenty.
And U of L will manage. I get the impression that this was more than a little anticipated by U of L coaches. If Tyler had just finished his senior season, the jump would be more damaging, because there would be no time to recover. But there is time for Rick Pitino and what’s left of his staff to pick up the pieces.
We should, however, pause to consider Pitino’s recruiting luck.
He lost James Lang to a high school jump to the NBDL.
He lost Donta Smith to a juco-to NBA Draft jump.
He lost Sebastian Telfair when adidas promised him $10 million before he even declared.
He lost Amir Johnson to the Detroit Pistons bench.
And now he is the first coach ever to have a high school recruit drop out of school to go pro.
Let’s just say he’s in a rough patch. In fact, this begs for a Top 10 list. So here it is, the Top 10 remaining ways in which Pitino has NOT lost a high profile recurit . . .
10. Parachuting accident
9. Political asylum
8. Religious cult
7. Abduction by John Calipari
6. Spring Break disappearance
5. Repeating the 12th grade
4. Joining the carnival
3. White collar crime
2. Tatoo mishap
And the No. 1 way in which Rick Pitino has NOT lost a profile recruit . . .
1. Jumping straight to graduate school
Seriously, though. The Cardinals will be all right. And Tyler will be all right. The ones I worry about are the kids that follow him, dreaming of shortened high school careers while not focusing on the work they need to do in the present, particularly in the classroom.
More in tomorrow’s paper.