Mudiay made a monumental decision at only 18 years of age. Will it push his career to new heights, or leave him in the dust?
Emmanuel Mudiay is the latest sensational prospect to hit the professional basketball scene. Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire) and raised in Dallas, Mudiay’s game combines the silky-smooth skills of Chris Paul with the size and athletic prowess of John Wall.
He has shown this year that he can do just about anything on the basketball court. And at only 18 years old, all indication is that his star has just begun to shine. But Mudiay doesn’t play in the NBA. Or the NCAA, for that matter. He’s balling literally on the other side of the world, with the Guandong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).
Mudiay has followed in the footsteps of previous prep phenoms Brandon Jennings and Jeremy Tyler, who rather than spend their obligatory post-prep year in college, opted to go overseas and get paid while waiting their turn in the NBA.
Jennings spent a year struggling against top European competition in Italy, while Tyler had similar trials and travails playing in the Israeli Basketball Premier League. Mudiay opted for China, a place where basketball players and fans are still cutting their teeth and the style of play is much more open than in Europe.
Why Mudiay chose the Chinese route
The young phenom is one of the few players who have taken their talents overseas rather than toil on the NCAA circuit, the traditional path to the NBA. Mudiay was offered scholarships by several top programs before finally committing to SMU in 2013.
Less than a year later, in July 2014, he announced that he was changing his mind and would accept a contract to play in the CBA. The official story he gave what that he wanted to earn money to support his family:
I was tired of seeing my mom struggle…After sitting down with [SMU] Coach Brown and my family, we decided that the best way for me to provide for my mom was to forgo college and pursue professional basketball opportunities.
Numerous voices in the media, however, have voiced the opinion that the real reason was scrutiny of Mudiay’s high school academic career. Mudiay attended a purported basketball factory known as “Prime Prep” for two years, a school which failed to meet the state of Texas’ academic standards.
Mudiay’s academic records were under investigation by the NCAA, and there was serious concern that he would be ruled ineligible for the 2014-15 Season. While the $1.2 million dangled by Guangdong was certainly enticing, his move may been motivated by necessity, not money.
Mudiay’s Chinese adventure thus far
Guangdong Southern thought highly enough of Mudiay to offer him a one year, $1.2 million contract and immediately hand him the reins as their starting point guard.
• Emmanuel Mudiay is one of top prospects in the 2015 NBA Draft
• Signed a $1.2 million to play in the Chinese Basketball Association
• Averaging 19 points and 6 assists through nine games
How has the move looked thus far? Mudiay is currently nursing an injury, but performed will during the first nine games of the season, averaging 19 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds per game and shooting a shade under 50% from the field. Most importantly, the Tigers were off to an 8-1 start under his leadership.
Mudiay clearly showed his physical superiority over the competition, but how much does dominance in China foretell of future NBA success? The CBA is a young league struggling through adolescence, notorious for poor competition, incompetent coaches, and referees who barely grasp the rules of basketball. Despite that, its popularity is booming. Fan attendance has risen every year since 1995, and it is the preferred subject of online betting in Malaysia, China and Singapore.
Even after Mudiay’s impressive month with the Tigers, NBA scouts have to conclude that they know little more about his game than they did one year ago.
Has going to China helped Emmanuel Mudiay’s NBA prospects?
Mudiay played in only 9 games, and showcased his skills against inferior competition. While some would expect that to have hurt his draft stock, NBA draft prognosticators indicate that that isn’t the case.
The 18-year old is still considered one of the top prospects in the 2015 NBA draft, which is the same place he was upon leaving high school. Chad Ford of ESPN currently has Mudiay rated as the second-best prospect overall, trailing only Duke center JalilOkafor.
The question, then, is whether Mudiay would have been better suited spending the season in college, playing against other NBA prospects. He had committed to SMU, a school coached by legendary point guard guru Larry Brown, a man who certainly could have helped mold Mudiay into a seasoned professional.
However, the NCAA has an unpredictable effect on many players. Many projected stars have floundered in the college ranks and hurt their draft stock, with recent prospects Shabazz Muhammad and Harrison Barnes serving as prime examples. Both players entered their freshman seasons as the #1 ranked player in their class, only to show their limitations at the college level and up as middling role players in the NBA.
By this time next year we’ll have a clear picture of whether Mudiay’s Chinese adventure was the right decision. Once the NBA futures odds are released for the 2015 NBA Draft, however, we fully expect online and mobile betting sites to put Mudiay right at the top. His talent is just too immense to deny.