Emmanuel Mudiay will join the likes of Brandon Jennings and Jeremy Tyler in skipping college and heading from high school straight to professional basketball. But will Mudiay's move impact the nation's elite high school players?
By the end of September, Emmanuel Mudiay, Scout.com’s No. 2 prospect in the 2014 class and former SMU signee, will board a plane, accompanied by his brother and mother, and embark on a journey to China to begin his professional basketball career with the Guangdong Southern Tigers.
With more than $1 million on the table from his future team and a multi-year endorsement deal with Under Armour -- one source says it's worth more than $3 million, based on incentives related to his ultimate NBA draft position -- Mudiay stands to profit handsomely.
While most were caught off guard by Mudiay’s decision to bypass college, the 6-foot-5 guard told Scout.com the more he dove into the idea the more it made sense.
“I’m not surprised anymore,” Mudiay said. “When the idea came out I was kind of like ‘I don’t know,’ then they started talking about the deals and I was like ‘yeah,’ so it’s not that surprising for me.”
|Mudiay signed an endorsement deal with Under Armour last week
Mudiay said the idea of skipping college began to form while he was playing at the Nike Hoop Summit in mid-April. But why did he opt for the Chinese Basketball Association?
To go with the amount of the deal that the Guangdong Southern Tigers offered him, Mudiay also was intrigued by his new league's short season.
“The reason why I love it that much is it’s not going to be long,” Mudiay said. “If I was going to take 10 months or 12 months, then I’m not sure. I’m mentally strong enough to go for five or six. It’s the time and if you love your family as much as you say and you want them to be well. That’s what it was for me.”
Mudiay, who sources say turned down endorsement deals with Nike and Adidas, isn’t the first to make this type of move. Brandon Jennings, the top player in the 2007 class, skipped high school to play professionally in Italy. Jennings also signed a deal with Under Armour. Two years later, Jeremy Tyler attempted a similar move.
“That was huge,” Jaylen Brown, Scout.com’s No. 1 player in the 2015 class, said about Mudiay’s decision. “It’s starting a new culture.”
“A lot of guys are talking about if they could do that, they would,” Brown added. “There are a lot of things coming up that could be on the table for some guys. Everybody is interested and everybody is watching to see how he’s going to do and how it’s going to work out.”
Ivan Rabb, who currently ranks as the No. 5 player in the senior class, as well as No. 1 junior Jayson Tatum, echoed Brown's thoughts.
“I think he’s the first guy since Brandon Jennings, at least the first big name guy,” Rabb said. “He’s a really highly recruited player and I think a lot of other big name guys will start doing that. I haven’t really thought about it much, though.”
“I think it was probably the right decision,” Tatum said. “No one wants to sit out. Everybody loves to play basketball. If you have a chance or an opportunity then you should go play.”
Mudiay told Scout.com that three current high school players have reached out to him to discuss the idea of following in his footsteps.
“I don’t know if I can say their names,” he said. “But some of them are interested. They are looking to see how it’s going to end up and see how it’s going to go. Then they’ll talk to their families.”
|Brown said he’ll be paying close attention to Mudiay
Brown, a 6-foot-7 athletic wing, has yet to make a college commitment and is considering five schools – Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA. But it’s not a foregone conclusion he plays college basketball at all.
“Absolutely,” Brown responded when asked if he would consider skipping college and playing overseas for a year.
“It’s something that you have to think about,” Brown added. “College is one of the biggest decisions of your life, and that could be one of the biggest decisions of your life. I have a family to take care. I don’t want my mom to work anymore, so it’s something I’ll have to talk about and if it’s on the table for me then I’ll definitely think about it.”
Brown has been able to consult the Jennings family for advice.
“I’m really good friends with his mom and his little brother,” Brown said of Jennings. “They played on my AAU team for a long period of time. They loved the decision that he made and hopefully if I get that chance I could make that decision, too.”
While Brown sounded optimistic about the idea, others like Rabb, Tatum and Ben Simmons said that type of move may not be for them.
“Once he did it, it definitely went through my head, but I wasn’t really serious about it,” Rabb told Scout.com. “It’s definitely a possibility for a lot of us. But for me, I don’t know if that’s for me.”
“Last resort or only option if I had to,” Tatum said. “I want to go to college.”
“In my head I want to go to LSU,” Simmons, Scout.com’s No. 2 ranked player, said. “That’s where I want to go. For me, it’s more about going to school. I want to go to LSU and get an education, and hopefully I’m blessed enough to enter the draft.”
Top five seniors Diamond Stone and Skal Labissiere also told Scout.com that they want to go to college, rather than pursue a professional career out of high school.
Elite five-star 2016 forward Harry Giles said watching Mudiay make this move has opened his eyes.
“Kind of,” he responded when asked if he had thought about it. “I’ve more of thought about it going straight to the league. It wouldn’t be bad.”
Thon Maker, Scout.com’s No. 4 player in 2016, is the type of prospect who will likely have similar type options when he completes high school. Right now, according to his guardian Ed Smith, the 7-foot slender prospect, isn’t ready to make that jump. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be.
“That’s not even on the table right now because his body isn’t ready,” Smith explained. “If you get your body ready and it’s an option then you have to consider it.”
|Thon Maker is one of the elite prospects in 2016
“In 2016 he can look at it,” Smith added. “In 2016 and he has that offer on the table then he can look at it if he’s there physically and in the maturity of his play. You definitely have to look at those type of options.”
Maker recently transferred to Athletes Institute in Canada. The move was based around putting Maker in a position to develop physically in the weight room and by playing against elite competition with an aggressive high school schedule in place.
“Two years from now we’ll see where the progression is with his body,” Smith said. “He’s going to get his body right. Then we can look at what can he do in college and then test him against other pros and see how he does.”
With the move Mudiay is set to make, challenges are inevitable. Smith mentioned being physically ready, but there are other things that await a player set to make a transition of this magnitude: language barriers, playing against older, seasoned veterans, and the social aspect of living in a new country where English isn't the native language.
“You got to be mentally strong enough," Mudiay said. "I don’t think everybody is mentally ready to do it."
Much like when Jennings made the move, the elite level high school players now will pay very close attention to Mudiay’s season. Will it start a trend with the top tier high school players? It’s too early to know, but it certainly has the elite players talking.
“Right now I’m focused on me, but I can see some doing it,” Mudiay said. “It’s about the deal you get. I was fortunate to get the highest deal out of high school ever. Everybody’s situation is going to be different. I can see people trying to do it, but I don’t know if they’ll get more or less.”
See what fans are saying here
Coleman-Lands selects Illini