Like many former Gators, Alex Tyus is putting together a successful and profitable career overseas.
Tyus agreed to a three-year, $1.1 million deal Monday to return to Israel and play for Maccabi Tel Aviv. Two of the years of the contact are guaranteed, with a team option for a third year.
Tyus had spent the last two weeks mulling his options, and was approached by Panathinaikos in the Greek A1 league. But when the Greek team decided to go in a different direction with other players, Tyus opted for the Maccabi deal.
“Really happy with it,” said Tyus, who began his career overseas in 2011 with Maccabi Ashod in Israel. “I feel really comfortable in Israel and I love the fans there. We have a chance to have a strong team.”
Tyus converted to Judiasm during his UF career and holds dual Israeli-American citizenship. He was a fan favorite his first season in Israel, but moved on for a better deal and a chance to play in the Euroleage with Pallacanestro Cantu in Italy.
“The Euroleague is the closest thing to the NBA in Europe,” said Tyus, who averaged 8.1 points and 3.7 rebounds in 10 Euroleague games last season. “I felt like the season went well. I was able to grow as a person and a player.”
During his college career, the 6-foot-8 Tyus was part of the slow and sometimes difficult rebuilding process following UF’s back-t0-back national title seasons in 2006 and 2007. He was part of the heralded UF 2007 recruiting class that included Nick Calathes, Jai Lucas, Adam Allen and Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons.
Parsons and Tyus were the only two from the class to stick it out for all four seasons. Both helped bring the UF basketball program back to respectability. Fans shouldn’t forget that Tyus was a big part of UF’s Elite Eight run in 2011. He still holds the share of the UF record for rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game, finishing with 19 points and 17 rebounds in Florida’s 83-74 overtime Sweet 16 win over BYU.
Unlike Parsons, Tyus didn’t hear his name called in the NBA draft. But he’s managed to make the most of his professional career overseas, a message he can pass down to most recent undrafted former Gator guards Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario.
“I would just tell them to continue to get better,” Tyus said. “Playing overseas, there can be some benefits rather than being the 13th or 15th guy just trying to stay on an NBA roster. You have a chance to play more. If you can better, you will make money, perhaps even more money than a journeyman in the NBA. Then there’s the experience of living overseas. You get a chance to meet a lot of different people, learn different cultures.”
The passion for basketball overseas is different, but just as intense in the NBA.
“In Cantu, we had about 10 games where our team was fined because our fans went a little overboard,” Tyus said. “They throw cellphones on the court, batteries. It was surreal, but it also shows how much they care about basketball all over the word.”