Emmanuel Mudiay Turns Pro: What It Means For SMU

Posted by Mike Lemaire on July 15th, 2014

Six months of commendation for SMU coach Larry Brown and optimism about the Mustangs’ 2014-15 season went out the window yesterday morning when superstar recruit Emmanuel Mudiay somewhat surprisingly made it known that he would be pursuing a professional career overseas instead of heading to campus next season.

Mudiay's decision to skip college leaves SMU wondering what might have been.

Mudiay’s decision to skip college leaves SMU wondering what might have been.

For Mudiay, the decision makes sense on a number of levels. Although he claims that the decision is motivated by financial issues rather than eligibility concerns, there are plenty of pundits who wonder whether Mudiay would have been allowed to play as a collegian at all. Speculation aside, a financial motive is a legitimate one. Mudiay can make a lot of money playing professionally, even for one season — certainly more than he would have seen while suiting up as a freshman for the Mustangs. And while he may struggle to adjust to the professional ranks in a different country, he will still likely end up as a lottery pick based on his upside alone, so why not earn a very large paycheck in between? There aren’t many players who have an opportunity like this, especially American high school players, so it’s hard to find fault in Mudiay’s logic.

Of course that doesn’t make the sting any less painful for SMU and its fans. A 6’5″ point guard with great strength and speed, Mudiay was expected to be a game-changer for the Mustangs both on and off the court. The Mustangs return an already loaded roster from one of the most successful seasons in program history, and the arrival of Mudiay had many smart basketball minds pegging SMU as a top-15 team entering next season. The team brings back one of the deepest frontcourts in the country, considering the recent additions of transfers Jordan Tolbert (Texas Tech) and Justin Martin (Xavier), but while incumbent point guard Nic Moore is no slouch, he is also nowhere close to the penetrating force and athlete of Mudiay. Adding the star freshman to the backcourt not only would have added another dimension to the team’s offense, but it also would have allowed Brown to mix and match his lineups – something he does better than anyone else – to exploit opponents’ weaknesses. The Mustangs will still be an excellent team next season, and in the newly watered-down AAC they may still compete for the league title with UConn and Memphis — they will fall off a lot of pundits’ “Darkhorse National Title Contender” lists, however.

Where Mudiay’s decision may make the biggest impact, though, is in SMU’s future recruiting efforts. His decision to spurn John Calipari to join Brown in Dallas was supposed to announce the arrival of the Mustangs on the national recruiting stage and help lure other top recruits to join him in Dallas. Now SMU is left with nothing, as Mudiay was the team’s only recruit in the Class of 2014. That fact has much more to do with scholarship availability than it has to do with the appeal of the program, but it still leaves Brown’s team full of upperclassmen built around transfer players.

No one should feel sorry for Brown and the Mustangs because they knew fully well what they were getting into when they recruited a player of Mudiay’s caliber. A commitment can net you a raft of accolades and stories about how your program is on the rise, but there is never a guarantee that a player with that much hype ultimately puts on the jersey. There is no doubt that SMU is still miles ahead of where it was when Brown took over the flagging program, but the proclamations of SMU’s ascendance to the ranks of national power will probably need to be put on hold while Brown gets back to making sure all his hard work wasn’t undone in the span of one day.

mlemaire (324 Posts)

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