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May 29, 2008

All eyes on Jeremy Tyler

MORE: Rivals 100 for 2010 | Jeremy Tyler Profile | Positions: PG | SG | SF | PF | C

The kids at school don't stare at Jeremy Tyler simply because he's 6 feet 9 and 240 pounds. They don't turn their heads and stop in the halls only because of his size 18 shoes.

Now they do double-takes because there's a film crew following the 16-year-old sophomore basketball player at San Diego High School.

In January, a film company contacted Tyler and his family to ask permission to begin documenting Tyler's life. The company wanted to capture Tyler's evolution from prep star to potential college headliner to, if all goes according to plan, NBA player.

"I think it'll be a good project for my life," said Tyler, the Rivals.com No. 1 sophomore basketball player in the nation. "My life has a good story to it the way I carry myself and the way my team is getting to travel around the nation to play and getting on television. The film company thought it'd be a good thing to catch on film."

If Tyler's first two seasons at San Diego High are any indication, the film company which has shot footage of Tyler at school pep rallies and basketball games and is considering putting a camera in Tyler's house chose a worthy subject.

The San Diego High Cavers were 23-5 in 2007-08, didn't lose to any rival San Diego teams and won the California Interscholastic Federation San Diego Section Division I crown for the first time in 33 years. Tyler averaged 18 points, 14.5 rebounds and 7.7 blocks while shooting 51 percent from the field.

"Jeremy's enhanced everything that we've been able to do as a team," Cavers coach Kenny Roy said. "He lets us be very athletic overall. We're able to get up and down and push the tempo with him because he can be a weapon anywhere. We know he can get his inside, and he can also usually get by his man and get to the basket with one dribble."

Tyler's main weakness is his ball-handling. When Tyler improves that, Roy said, his shooting and slashing abilities will "get even scarier."

Tyler knows he still has some fine-tuning to do.

"Reaching that next level is a dream that you really have to fight for," Tyler said. "I know it's not going to come overnight. I know I could get there, but only if I take all of the right steps."

Added Roy: "Jeremy doesn't allow being No. 1 to get to his head. He knows that if he settles, guys No. 2, 3 and 4 will start to catch up."

In an attempt to test Tyler and his teammates' stamina while giving them a taste of the college and pro travel experience, Roy made the Cavers' 2007-08 schedule similar to that of a mid-major Division I college basketball program. They went to the Amare Stoudemire Classic in Lakeland, Fla., the Neosha Holiday Classic in Neosha, Mo., and the Big Apple Classic in New York City. Roy hasn't finished designing the 2008-09 schedule, but he's anticipating a trip to Houston for the Kingwood Classic.

"We have had a college experience with all of our traveling," Roy said. "Getting on the airplanes, playing every other day it was an awesome experience for the guys."

Tyler also played against a bevy of elite players last summer while traveling to various amateur tournaments and camps.

"I got to play with my favorite player of all time, Amare Stoudemire," Tyler said. "Getting to play with him and talk to him, just being in the same gym as him, was amazing. I also met the Lopez twins (Brook and Robin), Roy Hibbert and that huge guy from UConn (Hasheem Thabeet).

"You really learn how to act and carry yourself when you're around those guys."

Soon enough, Tyler is expected to be around those guys more often he'll be one of them.

North Carolina, Florida, UCLA and Georgetown are among the schools that have contacted Roy about his star. If a team was in the NCAA Tournament this past season, chances are good it has been sending letters for months. Duke is one of the only major programs that hasn't inquired, "maybe because they're just waiting until Jeremy's junior year," Roy said. "But I've gotten letters and talked to assistants from pretty much everywhere else."

On what Roy said was a "light day," his mailbox was filled with letters from Kentucky, USC and Pacific.

Tyler seemed genuine when he said the suffocating amount of attention hasn't changed him for the worse. He said he understands why there are so many phone calls, letters and interview requests: "All of these people are just doing their jobs."

Tyler realizes that the attention colleges pay him could provide opportunities for his teammates. Coaches and recruiters attend Cavers games to see Tyler, but the potential exists that they might spot another player.

"Jeremy has brought notoriety to the program," Roy said. "He helps give chances to our other players who might be under the radar. College coaches might see a handful of kids they like.

"Or maybe one particular coach doesn't need one of our guys, but he calls another person and tells them about one of our players."

And what about the camera crews and staring classmates? Do they help Tyler's teammates, or do they get under Tyler's skin?

"All of that has made me more mature," Tyler said. "My mind-set has changed in that I don't really worry about other people thinking about me and looking at me.

"If I was them and I saw a 7-footer walking around, I'd be looking, too."

MORE: Rivals 100 for 2010 | Jeremy Tyler Profile

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