SMU Commit Emmanuel Mudlay Chooses Europe

Joe Murphy

One of the top rated prospects in the Class of 2014, and a surefire Top-3 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Emmanuel Mudlay has decided to play professional basketball in Europe rather than attend SMU this year.

He was drawing comparisons to John Wall and Derrick Rose. The plan was for him to spend one year flashing his ridiculous talents and helping Larry Brown turn around SMU's basketball program. Instead, there are official reports from multiple outlets that Emmanuel Mudlay, Rivals' #2 player in the country, will forgo his NCAA eligibility, sign with an agent and play professional basketball overseas.

Most people around college basketball thought the SMU Mustangs were ready to break out as contenders in year three of the Larry Brown experiment- mostly because of Mudlay. A quick look at pre-season Top 25's before today's news showed that most college basketball experts thought SMU would be the best team in the AAC this year. ESPN's Eamonn Brennan and SI's Seth Davis had the Huskies ahead of them, but the fact remains that everyone had high expectations for SMU this year and now they need to be seriously adjusted.

This is obviously a huge blow for Larry Brown and the Mustangs' hopes. Still, they were a good team last year, we should know. They were controversially omitted from the NCAA Tournament field by a (probably) blackout drunk selection committee but held their heads high on their way to an NIT Finals appearance. They return six of their top seven scorers from last year and expect to see Sophomores Keith Frazier (5-star SG) and Yanick Moreira (4-star PF) take the next step. With Larry Brown at the helm, they should still be a top team in the AAC and break through into the NCAA Tournament.

In case there was any doubt, though, we can now comfortably peg UConn as the favorite to win the AAC this year.

***

The sources which broke this news are reporting that Mudlay made this decision because he wants to take care of his family- specifically mentioning that he was "tired of seeing his Mom struggle". There are rumors, however, that pending NCAA inquiries were part of his motivation. Maybe it's that, maybe it's both, maybe he didn't want to deal with the uncertainty of the NCAA "investigatory process". Maybe he decided he didn't want to play in a corrupt, broken system and (gasp!) actually wanted to earn the full value from his expiring athletic skills.

The most well known prep-to-Europro prospect was Brandon Jennings in the Class of 2008. He was ranked #1 in the class by ESPN and Scout.com, yet chose to play in Italy rather than take the traditional college route. In one year, he made $1.6 million from his basketball contract and $2 million from an endorsement deal with Under Armor. He played well, though not spectacularly, and was chosen 10th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft, made the 2010 All-NBA Rookie team, and has earned over $20 million in five NBA seasons.

But it wasn't all perfect for Jennings. The conditions were far from ideal-- he probably would have been better off as a basketball player, and probably even financially, by playing in college. It's tough to fault him for giving it a try but the consensus remains that college is still the best option for a young player's marketability and skill development.

Mudlay still stands a good chance of being a Top-5 pick next year. And, just because Brandon Jennings didn't have a great experience doesn't mean that a different team can't provide a better experience. If Mudlay is successful, perhaps we may see a few more players make the trip overseas or maybe even one of these package deals that have become all the rage. As long as the NBA's one-and-done rule is in place, and perhaps even moreso if a two-year rule is enacted, it isn't out of the realm of possibility for this to become a more plausible option in the future.

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