6'11" Jeremy Tyler was hailed as a surefire pro prospect while attending high school in San Diego. But rather than waiting until he actually graduated from high school, Tyler did the unthinkable: He left before his senior season to play pro ball in Israel, which he thought would be a more challenging (and lucrative) incubator for the NBA, which requires prospective draftees to be at least 19 years of age. Tyler's 19 now, but his path abroad has been rocky at best. Until this year, that is, when he landed a roster spot with the Tokyo Apache and found among his teammates an unlikely mentor in former Sonic Robert Swift. (The Apache are coached, incidentally, by short-lived Sonic bench boss Bob Hill.)
Writes Christopher Johnson of The New York Times: "In the team's Japanese group dynamics, Swift, who played under Hill in Seattle at age 19 after being picked 12th over all in the 2004 N.B.A. draft out of high school, has taken the role of senpai (senior) to the kohai (junior) Tyler. 'I'm just helping him every day with what I learned,' Swift said. 'It's the little footwork, the little details you're not taught growing up but that make that much difference in the N.B.A. If you don't know how to do it, you're a step behind in the N.B.A.'"
Ah, what a wise old sage, that Swift. Lest we forget, Swift took a similarly ill-advised path to the NBA, skipping college in order to be selected 12th in the 2004 NBA by the Sonics, whose general manager at the time, Rick Sund, seemed to view even the rawest of seven-footers (Mo Sene, Johan Petro) as the second coming of Kareem. Swift came into the league as a pimply-faced, skinny, injury-prone, crew-cutted-redhead teenager with good speed, a decent nose for rebounds, and absolutely no offensive skills. Four years and 97 games played later, he left the league a pimply-faced, overbulked, injury-prone ponytailed redhead of (barely) legal drinking age with a decent nose for rebounds and absolutely no offensive skills.
So when Swift says he knows what it takes to be a step behind in the NBA, Tyler should definitely listen up.