Go ahead, world.
Take Jeremy Tyler.
We Americans will see your J.T. and raise you an Enes Kanter.
|Enes Kanter is expected to enroll at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. (Getty Images)|
Well, I'll be damned.
Some background: Kanter earned MVP honors earlier this month at the U18 European Championships after averaging 18.6 points and 16.4 rebounds, and the 6-foot-10 center was subsequently presented with multiple professional opportunities -- including a reported two-year, $4 million contract from Olympiakos, AKA, the Greek club that just signed NBA veterans Linas Kleiza and Von Wafer. Not bad.
But rather than turn pro, Kanter flew to the United States, started training in Chicago, and he is now expected to enroll this week at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, where he will team with future Texas Longhorn Tristan Thompson and almost certainly become one of the most sought-after prospects in the Class of 2010, given his stated desire to play college basketball.
All of which gives us a man-bites-dog story.
For the past year, industry figures have debated whether Brandon Jennings' decision to skip college and play in Europe would start a trend of American prospects passing on campus for cash. But then Class of 2009 stars John Wall, Xavier Henry, Lance Stephenson and Renardo Sidney each enrolled in college as planned, and now it seems more likely that one (or zero) prospects will choose that route each year as opposed to three or four or nine.
In other words, what Jennings did was great, but it hasn't really changed the landscape.
He opened a door.
But outside of Tyler -- who is also giving up his senior year of high school -- who of note is walking through it?
Meantime, Turkey's top prospect is taking an opposite approach and jogging in through the out door. Jennings passed on school for a million bucks, but Kanter passed on (more than) a million bucks for college. To each his own. And I guess that's really the point of this column, to explain how all indications are that Jennings didn't start a trend a year ago any more than Kanter is starting one now. Their individual decisions were based on individual backgrounds, individual circumstances and individual desires, and trying to draw a larger meaning from any of it is silly.
Why did Jennings go to Europe?
Because it was, quite simply, the best move for him. Understand, there were always doubts about whether Jennings would be cleared to play at Arizona, and he was obviously more interested in being a professional than a physics major. With the help of Sonny Vaccaro, Jennings found a team (Lottomatica Virtus Roma) and sponsor (Under Armour) willing to put money in his pocket. So he took the money and basically disappeared for a year, then reappeared at June's NBA Draft, where he was the 10th overall pick.
It was the perfect set-up for Jennings.
But not for Kanter.
He's a different dude with different goals.
Sure, he'd love to play in the NBA someday, too.
"First, I want to have a good education and then become a good, famous basketball player," he said. "Money was second or third in my priorities."
Now we can argue for days about whether Kanter's priorities are screwed up, but that would be pointless. All that matters is that they are his priorities, and if his wish is to get a good education while becoming a "famous" basketball player, there is no better place to achieve those things than on the stage the NCAA provides. Is it what I'd do in the same situation? Absolutely not. I'd take the millions and worry about educating myself later, like when I got old and was no longer good enough for people to offer me millions to play basketball. I'm superficial like that. But for every person like me interested in seizing the financial moment, there seems to be another person like Kanter interested in taking the process a little more slowly.
And that's how this will forever be.
Reasonable minds can and will disagree on the best path to travel, and there's nothing Jeremy Tyler could say to make Enes Kanter think less of playing in the NCAA, just like there's nothing Enes Kanter could say to make Jeremy Tyler think more of the college experience.
Jeremy Tyler is doing what's best for him.
Enes Kanter is doing what's best for him.
Consequently, we're losing one high school star but gaining another.
Best I can tell, things are mostly balancing out.