It’s not often that arguably the best player coming into the NBA Draft is both American and didn’t play college basketball, but 2015 may be the exception to that rule. Emmanuel Mudiay, the star point guard native to Dallas, Texas, has finished his first full pro season in Guandong, China and will return stateside to work out prior to the 2015 draft. While many basketball fans didn’t get much of a chance to watch Mudiay this season, he showcased the skills in high school and in China to be a great player in the NBA, drawing comparisons to players like John Wall and Russell Westbrook. Some scouts even project him over Jahlil Okafor, the consensus first overall pick in the NBA Draft. Despite this high praise, Mudiay’s journey has been far from ordinary, bringing him across the globe in hopes of a professional basketball career.
Initially, coming out of Dallas’ Prime Prep, a high school notorious for the involvement of Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboy Deion Sanders, Mudiay looked to stay in Texas, and specifically, the DFW area. Thus, he landed with Larry Brown and SMU, the program the Hall of Fame coach took over in the heart of the wealthy Highland Park neighborhood in Dallas. With Brown at the helm, SMU has massively elevated their program, but in Mudiay, Brown saw the prospect that could change this program forever. Larry Brown estimated that with Mudiay, the Mustangs would be a top 5 program in the nation and a competitor for the national championship. Unfortunately, not everything worked out as planned.
This summer, the Texas Education Council visited Prime Prep and revoked their charter as a high school, calling into question the academic standards of Deion Sanders’ school. Without a proper degree, Mudiay would have fought the NCAA, probably throughout most of the season, for the chance to suit up for SMU. Thus, after many conversations with Larry Brown, he decided to forgo college in favor of a pro career in China. He then signed a shoe and apparel deal with Under Armour, a contract with the Chinese Basketball Association, and was subsequently shipped off to the Guandong province to join the team.
His season in China got off to a blistering start, as he averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists with Guandong, until an ankle injury shortened his year to just eight games. However, through the injury, Mudiay remained in China, growing and bonding with his teammates over many months as he rehabbed his ankle. When Guandong faced a crucial playoff series against Stephon Marbury’s Beijing Ducks, the coach called upon Mudiay, who showed out, scoring 24 points in the elimination game. While 12 games is certainly a limited time frame to judge a player, Mudiay showed in China that he has what it takes to make it at the next level, and previous number one picks have been selected with a lesser resume.
Mudiay’s situation compares extremely favorably to that of Kyrie Irving, who played just 11 games at Duke before being drafted number one overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. While Irving and Mudiay are different types of guards, they were both able to demonstrate incredible physical gifts in a short period of time. No matter who drafts Emmanuel Mudiay this summer, they will take control of a point guard with incredible ability to change speeds at will, finish at the basket, and find open teammates for easy buckets. His basketball IQ is worlds beyond his years, and playing a year of pro basketball in China has demonstrated that he has the maturity to take the next step. Whether Mudiay is drafted 1st or 60th overall, he will certainly be a player to watch in the NBA next year.