Utah Jazz

A friend of mine may soon show up in Kenny’s neck of the woods. Tyler Smith, a former Penn State basketball player, just made the Utah Jazz’s 18 man training camp roster (the Jazz camp doesn’t start until Monday and the roster won’t officially be announced until then).

Tyler is from the Chicago area. He played for Lake Forest High School graduating in 1998. He played four years at Penn State graduating in 2002. For the last few years he has been bouncing around the hinterlands of the pro basketball world pursuing his dream of playing in the NBA. Last year he played for a team in Peru.

Somewhat unbelieveably he’s close to making his dream happen. Tyler is the last guy you would ever expect to be an NBA player. Not only is Penn State not known for producing basketball stars, Tyler wasn’t even a star on PSU’s team. He didn’t become a full time starter until his junior year when he was the fourth leading scorer on the team (the team was pretty good though – making it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAAs).

As a senior, Tyler was the third leading scorer on the team averaging about 12 points per game but the team was really bad (we went 7-21 and the coach was fired at the end of the year). Tyler’s list of Penn State basketball awards consisted of winning the team’s Scrappiest Player and Unsung Hero Awards at their post season banquet not exactly the type awards to build you an NBA portfolio (actually he also was a three time Academic All B10 player but academic awards don’t get you to the NBA either). On top of that, he was white man’s disease, i.e. he can’t jump.

He is a smart gutty team player though. He was a 6’8″ power forward at Penn State with a soft shooting touch. He’s worked very hard on his jump shot and can not hit it pretty well from NBA range.

His saga of how he wound up with the Jazz is pretty interesting. As I said Tyler played in Peru last year but foreign basketball contracts are strictly on a year by year basis. Tyler went to a west coast open tryout camp last month where he played exceptionally well. At the camp, he was invited to hang around for a second week for a tryout camp that a bunch of Chinese teams were having. Chinese teams are allowed to have two foreign players on the roster. Tyler excelled at the camp and was named to the camp’s all star team. Then came draft day when the Chinese teams held a draft to populate their squads. As a result of his camp, Tyler fully expect to be drafted in the first round. Nope. In fact, he slipped all the way to the 2nd pick of the third round. Bad news, because only players in the first two rounds get those guaranteed Chinese contracts. Tyler was extremely disappointed.

Right after the camp was over, Tyler was called aside by Rick Barry (yup, the Rick Barry) who was running the camp. Barry told him that the Chinese teams were under orders from management back home to bring in big black guys not white one. So Tyler is a victim of racial discrimination. However, that’s when the good news happened. Barry told Tyler he thought he had NBA level skills and would make some contacts to see if he could arrange a tryout. True to his word, Barry called a couple of days later and said he had arranged a tryout with the Jazz. Tyler went to the tryout last week with three other guys and at the end of the tryout Tyler was signed to the Jazz’s practice squad.

He doesn’t have the team made yet (the Jazz are taking 18 players to camp but can only keep 15) but he’s got a chance which is more than he thought just a month ago.

So Ken, if you see a tall white guy that looks like this:

tell him you are a real relative of Uncle Larry.