Is Emmanuel Mudiay a Sign of Things to Come for SMU?Posted by CD Bradley on November 15th, 2013
In the eight years before Larry Brown arrived at SMU in 2012, the Mustangs had signed one top 100 recruit, and barely. Rivals ranked Cannen Cunningham, a 6’10” junior averaging 11 minutes and six points through two games this year, a lofty #98 in the Class of 2011. Things have, shall we say, turned around since the Hall of Fame coach sauntered into town. Brown signed the school’s first McDonald’s All American, 6’5” shooting guard Keith Frazier, which Rivals ranked #18 in the Class of 2013. On Thursday, he officially signed the highest-rated recruit in school history for the second time in two classes when 6’5” point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, Rivals’ #2 player in the Class of 2014, officially agreed to #PonyUp.
Admittedly, Brown had a couple of advantages in the pursuit of Mudiay: The prep star plays high school basketball less than 20 minutes from campus, and his older brother, Jean-Michael Mudiay, is a junior backcourt reserve for the Mustangs. Still, when a team that hasn’t won, or for that matter played in, an NCAA Tournament game in more than two decades outrecruits heavyweights like Kentucky and Kansas, attention must be paid. Furthermore, Brown is already showing results on the court, too. The Mustangs, who have posted one .500 or better record in the past decade, are off to a 2-0 start with wins over teams from the Big 12 and Atlantic 10. And Tuesday’s 89-58 win over Rhode Island was the team’s first 30-point win over a Division I foe in nearly three years. Given the step up to the AAC, this is almost certainly as good as it has been for SMU hoops in the past half-century, but the question must be asked: How long can it realistically last?
Brown is basketball’s most famous vagabond, having coached 10 professional teams and three college squads in his career. He’s 73 years old. And he came to SMU paired with Tim Jankovich, hired away from the top job at Illinois State with the highest assistant coach salary in the country and the promise that the job would be his whenever Brown left. “He knows I want to coach as long as I feel productive,” Brown told the Dallas Morning News when Jankovich agreed to join his staff. Brown is certainly being as productive, if not more so, than any SMU coach in recent history, and the immediate future is bright indeed. But with his penchant for happy feet coupled with his age, SMU fans better enjoy it for now. With that said, Jankovich isn’t a terrible backup plan. He had success at Illinois State, winning 20 games in four of his five seasons, but always falling just short of the NCAA Tournament. To all appearances, he has been and promises to be a good college basketball coach, but he’s going to have to replace a coach who has won NBA and NCAA titles and is now killing it on the recruiting trial. Can he match those results? The shoes holding the happiest feet in coaching remain, as ever, very large ones to fill.