Jeremy Tyler has played a significant role in helping the Santa Cruz Warriors advance to the NBA Development League Finals, a best-of-three series that begins on Thursday.
Tyler, a former Tokyo Apache big man, and the Warriors will play host to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the opening game. The series then shifts to Texas for Game 2 and, if necessary, Game 3, on Saturday and April 29, respectively.
CBS Sports Newtork will televise the series.
In Santa Cruz’s second-round series-clinching 103-97 win over the Austin Toros last Friday, Tyler had 22 points and nine rebounds. He averaged 19.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in the two-game series.
In the opening round, Tyler, a second-round selection in the 2011 NBA Draft, averaged 29.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.0 blocks in two games against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
Throughout the playoffs, the 21-year-old San Diego native has posted solid numbers. His four-game playoff averages: 24.5 points (first on Santa Cruz), 7.8 rebounds (first), 1.75 steals (first) and 1.25 blocks (second).
Tyler played sparingly this season for the Golden State Warriors, and was shipped to to the Atlanta Hawks in a salary-dump move, appearing in 20 games for Golden State and one for the Hawks while averaging 3.2 minutes and 1.0 points for both teams combined.
He was released by the Hawks on March 6, and returned to Santa Cruz in mid-March. And he gave the club solid production down the stretch as it finished the regular season on a high note and won two playoff series.
After Santa Cruz, Golden State’s D-League affiliate, eliminated Fort Wayne from the playoffs last week, Tyler spoke about the value of increased playing time as a major part of his development.
“I’m just getting into more of a flow. When I was (with Golden State), I was sitting a lot, and now I feel like I’ve gotten into more of a rhythm,” he told the Register Pajaronian, a newspaper in Santa Cruz County, California.
Getting let go by the Hawks has not dampened Tyler’s spirits. Instead, he told the Register Pajaronian, “I’ve definitely been playing with a chip on my shoulder. Trying to get back and playing hard, I’ve just been playing with something to prove.
“I think by winning this championship and continuing to play hard that will all work out.”
The Apache, a now-defunct franchise, played their final game on March 10, 2011, against the Akita Northern Happinets at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2.
Here’s a small snippet of this reporter’s story the next day in The Japan Times:
Tyler had a pair of monster jams in the first 34 seconds of the fourth quarter, giving Akita coach Bob Pierce the urgency to call a timeout as his team trailed 72-56. Tyler finished with 24 points, nearly breaking his career high of 27, which was set in November.
It was the then-19-year-old Tyler’s first — and only — start of the season.
Putting Tyler in the starting lineup paid off. Tokyo defeated Akita 94-80 after a double-overtime loss in the series opener.
After the game, Tokyo coach Bob Hill, a longtime NBA mentor, said, “The lineup changed worked, we took control of the game and it worked.”
Bob Hill worked extensively with Tyler, who didn’t attend college, to prepare him for the mental and physical rigors of the NBA. And he still keeps close tabs on the young man’s career.
Casey Hill, Bob’s son, was an assistant for the Apache and the Dakota Wizards (for whom Tyler also played during the 2011-12 campaign), who moved to Santa Cruz for the 2012-13 season. And he’s a Santa Cruz assistant now under bench boss Nate Bjorkgren.
Looking ahead to the upcoming D-League Finals, Bob Hill admitted he’s excited about the games to come.
“Casey and Jeremy are back together again,” he told The Japan Times. “The finals should be interesting. Jeremy is showing signs of maturing both on and off the court.”