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San Diego prep star Jeremy Tyler leaves Israeli pro team

March 19, 2010 |  4:40 pm

Jeremy Tyler, who left before his senior year at San Diego High to play professional basketball for Israeli pro team Maccabi Haifa for a contract valued at $140,000, has left the squad and is returning home to Southern California with more than a month left in the season.

"It's what he wanted to do in both instances," Sonny Vaccaro, Tyler's advisor and a longtime shoe-company representative, told The Times on Friday. "He's coming home to work out, he'll work out for other teams and probably go to Europe and play [professionally] next year."

Vaccaro said Tyler, 18, has been invited to an Italian camp in June that will include European pro players and lower-round NBA draft picks.

In Israel, Tyler's situation was compromised by limited playing time -- he reportedly grew highly frustrated at the sparse minutes -- and the great distance from his family.

"Do I wish he could've played more? Do I wish he could've handled it better? Yes," Vaccaro said.

Vaccaro worked to make professional basketball overseas a legitimate option for players who don't want to sit through the NBA-mandated policy that stipulates that players can't join the league until they're 19 and one year removed from high school. Brandon Jennings, a Compton Dominguez High product, played for a season in Italy before he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks.

"Brandon was a completely different case, in that he had his mother and brother living with him," Vaccaro said. "I never said this was going to be easy, but Jeremy's family signed off on it, and he'll be fine. No one's saying he can't play basketball." 

Vaccaro said "my whole issue" is that elite prep players such as Tyler shouldn't be forced to leave the country to immediately earn an income.

"If they paid these kids more in the [NBA] Development League, and let them in, that'd be the perfect place to play: a good minor league, in this country, with accountable coaches," Vaccaro said. "Get rid of this whole nonsense of not being paid. It's mind-boggling."

-- Lance Pugmire