San Diego hoops star signs with pro team in Israel

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Jeremy Tyler completed his jump from high school underclassman to pro basketball player last week when he signed a one-year, $140,000 contract with Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli Premier League.

Tyler, 18, is the first American-born player to leave high school early to play basketball professionally overseas. The 6-foot-11, 260-pound Tyler announ-ced in the spring that he was skipping his senior season at San Diego High School because prep basketball had become “boring.”

“I think I made the right decision,” Tyler said Aug. 12. “I think this team is a good fit for me and it’s the right country.”

Jeremy Tyler photo/ap/denis poroy

Tyler averaged 28.7 points during his junior season.

“I got past the easy part,” he said. “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.”

One of the players on the Maccabi Haifa roster is Todd Golden, a former standout at St. Mary’s College in Moraga who also played for the U.S. squad in the Maccabiah Games in Israel this summer. Golden is Jewish; Tyler is not.

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

“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, which opens its season Oct. 25, was promoted to the Premier League after a 10-year absence and earned its first appearance in both the Israeli Premier League championship game and the State Cup Finals.

“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.”