It didn't take long for Emmanuel Mudiay to make his national introduction. He's been appearing on Scout.com since his freshman season, when he emerged as a skilled, deluxe athlete.
His sophomore year at Arlington (Texas) Grace Prep featured some huge performances in national events, including at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest that also featured current Oklahoma State Cowboy Marcus Smart. From the beginning he proved to be not only a jet in the fullcourt game, but also a talented and unselfish passer.
But he encountered a roadblock during his junior season. Upon transferring from Grace to Dallas' Prime Prep, Mudiay was ruled ineligible for competition due to state statutes forbidding transfers for athletics reasons. He regained eligibility, however, and soared at Prime to close the year.
During the process he picked up too many scholarship offers to count, and that led him into his final spring and summer on the national travel circuit. Although he shot poorly on the EYBL from the perimeter, he showcased a strong all-around game and contributed in multiple areas for Texas Pro.
A good, not great spring then transformed into a dominant summer. Mudiay performed sensationally in Las Vegas late last month, teaming with elite junior guard Malik Newman to bring excitement to the Sin City courts. In Vegas, Mudiay knocked down jump shots and took on the look of a complete player.
His recruitment also tightened up. Five schools remain in contention — Kentucky, Baylor, Kansas, SMU and Oklahoma State — heading into the fall. He plans to visit Lexington officially for the Wildcats' season-opening festivities and will continue to set up additional trips.
Strength, athleticism, size, you name it. Baseball has what it terms "five tool players" based on their natural abilities, and Mudiay is something of an equivalent in hoops. He boasts tremendous height for point guard and is a powerhouse already, and that's prior to his strength and conditioning programs at the collegiate and likely NBA levels.
He's also very athletic. Though perhaps not achieving the rare air occupied by John Wall or Derrick Rose, Mudiay boasts elite quickness and speed and also is a fine above-the-rim finisher. His lateral quickness also makes him potentially a devastating defender and someone who crushes the screens opponents set in an attempt to curtail him.
Meanwhile, his ball-handling and passing are top-notch. He's a clever driver who's so effective as a scorer that defenses essentially concede drive-and-dish and drive-and-kick, so in effect he doesn't need to dazzle as a distributor because so many high percentage passes avail themselves as wide open.
That's how he succeeds in the halfcourt game, but in fullcourt he doesn't rely too heavily on skill. He's able to run past or else bump through defenders and is a body control finisher in traffic. With his natural aggression and strength also added to the mix, he should be a free throw regular for the duration of his career.
About those tools. The one that remains in dispute is a primetime jump shot. Maybe Mudiay's July will prove to be a turnaround marker, and from this point forward he'll be a capable marksman. His other talents make shooting less critical for him than it is for other players, but obviously at the professional level he'll need to be able to do everything.
There's also some lingering concern about whether he's a true quarterback. Can he run an offense that's facing a gimmick defense? What if he's having a poor scoring game?
Truthfully, he mostly has addressed those concerns. And thinking down the road, NBA franchises want their point guard to score first and distribute second.
It's difficult to place too much of a ceiling on a player this gifted. Other guards have established themselves as more complete — and there's obviously no question that shooting is an enormous aspect of the game — but Mudiay's status as a national top-five talent is cemented and, if he stays healthy, should propel him to a very long playing career.
Evaluating him as a collegian, his likely one year on campus could result in fireworks. Albeit not as blazingly fast as some of his recent predecessors, his game will enable him to put up numbers even before the truly figures out the NCAA level.
And in the years beyond that when he gains experience, he'll become that much more formidable.