Column: Put down the ball and study

Athletes have nothing to fall back on if they drop out of high school.

Jeremy Tyler, a high school basketball player from San Diego, is dropping out of school before his senior year to pursue a professional basketball career in Europe. His plan is to play for a European team for two or three years and then enter the NBA Draft when he is eligible.

There is something of a precedent for this. Last year, Brandon Jennings decided not to play for the University of Arizona. He went to Europe instead. But his decision probably hurt his value in this year's NBA Draft. He has not been putting up outstanding numbers in Europe (7.6 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists in 19.6 minutes in 16 Euroleague games).

These aren't exactly the types of stats NBA teams want from a point guard. Just 1.6 assists per game is terrible for a point guard, especially when playing against what many consider to be lesser competition in Europe.

The point is by not going to college and wanting to make money immediately, he probably cost himself a lot of money. If he would have just played at Arizona for one year and put up better numbers than he did living by himself in Europe, he would probably be a much higher pick in the draft, generating a much wealthier contract. But since he played in Europe, putting up below average stats, he probably won't be drafted as high. This could end up costing him millions of dollars, especially if he plays in the NBA like he played in Europe.

After seeing Jennings' experiment, you have to wonder why Tyler is willing to skip his senior year to go to Europe. Stay in school, kid. Who is advising him, telling him it's a good idea to drop out of high school and play in Europe? Greedy parents? A shady agent? His so-called friends? If these people truly had Tyler's best interests at heart, they would have tried to talk him out of dropping out and told him to get his education before worrying about professional basketball.

What happens if he suffers a career-ending injury in Europe? Hopefully that doesn't happen, but if it does, he has nothing to fall back on. A high school diploma and one year of college education looks a lot better on a job resume than a GED.

Hopefully, everything works out all right for Jeremy Tyler. Hopefully, he succeeds in Europe and eventually in the NBA. But, in all reality, his plan is too risky. If he fails, hopefully others will learn from his mistakes. Even if he succeeds, I hope it doesn't lead to more athletes dropping out of high school and skipping college.

If a trend of players dropping out of high school starts to develop, then the NBA needs to step in and stop it. One way would be to require a high school diploma before entering the league. Or maybe European teams should place restrictions on which players they sign. This is never going to happen though, because all teams care about is talent. They don't care if players have anything to fall back on. That's why it's up to kids and their parents to make sure education is the No. 1 priority.

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