Local Hoops: Haifa closing in on US high school phenom

Tyler insistent on skipping senior year to play pro ball; Pellot-Rosa also joins BSL runner-up.

jeremy tyler 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
jeremy tyler 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
After it had initially seemed he would turn down Maccabi Haifa in favor of Slovenian club Olimpija Ljubljana, US high school hoops sensation Jeremy Tyler is once more on the verge of signing with the BSL reigning finalist. Tyler, an 18-year-old, 2.11-meter prospect from San Diego, is the first player to leave high school early to play basketball professionally outside the United States, and according to Haifa's spokesperson Tal Avriel, the club and the player are close to an agreement. "The deal is more or less done, but until it is signed, it is not done," Avriel told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. Tyler, who is set to play two seasons in Europe before he becomes eligible for the 2011 NBA draft, averaged 28.7 points a game as a junior last season and is a good friend of Haifa's Davon Jefferson, who extended his contract at the club last month. "We are very close," Sonny Vaccaro, an adviser to Tyler, told The New York Times. "Everyone is in agreement. His agents need to formalize everything." While Haifa is finalizing the Tyler deal, coach Avi Ashkenazi is continuing to add to the roster for next season. On Monday, the club also announced the signing of guard Jesse Pellot-Rosa, the reigning MVP and Most Improved Player of the Puerto Rican league. Pellot-Rosa, 25, averaged 23.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 29 games played last season for Los Atleticos de San German in Puerto Rico. "I am very happy to join the Maccabi Haifa organization," said Pellot-Rosa, who is currently in Venezuela playing for the Puerto Rican National Team. "I'm looking forward to going to Israel and hopefully guiding this team into the Final Four." Pellot-Rosa was signed as an undrafted free-agent by the New York Jets of the National Football League as a wide receiver in 2007 while playing basketball at Virginia Commonwealth University. He was released prior to the start of the season and has since dedicated himself to his basketball career. "Jesse brings experience, leadership and toughness, which will contribute to our reputation as being a physical team," said Ashkenazi. One of the club's better players last season, Amit Ben-David, also agreed to a contract extension on Monday. "I'm happy there is continuity at the club," the veteran guard said. "I enjoyed my time at Haifa last season and I expect this season to be just as good." With Ben-David signing, Haifa has now got five players returning from last season (Jefferson, Ido Kozikaro, Moshe Mizrahi, Todd Golden), with guard Jason Rich the club's most significant new addition so far, at least until Tyler signs. Rich, 23, played last season with Cantù in Italy's top division and signed a one-year contract. "We are very excited to sign Jason Rich because his situation reminds me a lot of Davon Jefferson's," said Maccabi Haifa owner Jeffrey Rosen of the player who averaged 9.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals in Italy last season. "Rich is a young player with rare athletic ability and impressive talent, who will be able to develop his skills in Haifa and improve our team."