The NCAA is a farce.
It's hard for me to say that as a fan of college basketball, but it is. Having obvious one-and-done players go through the charade of spending one semester taking American History 101 at a basketball factory like Duke or Kansas or wherever is laughable. The one-and-done rule has turned college basketball into an extended pro tryout for these guys, with all of the risks of such a tryout and none of the rewards. The one-and-done rule itself isn't the NCAA's fault, and the NBA has to share some culpability, but ultimately, the NCAA benefits just as much from the rule by getting one year of comically undervalued labor from the top basketball prospects in the country.
Last season, in the most heralded draft class of the last decade, the college season turned into a meat grinder where prospects were analyzed and hyper-analyzed to the point that an international prospect like Dante Exum who hadn't had to deal with all of it floated along blissfully before showing up for draft season to take his turn.
Not only that, but in exchange for taking part in this pro tryout, players are compensated with tuition to a school they are unlikely to be attending past March, a few months of room and board, and now, unlimited chicken nuggets, thanks to a great quote from Shabazz Napier after leading Connecticut to the national title and making the NCAA look foolish on its grandest scale.
This season, while Kelly Oubre is sitting in a cafeteria somewhere enjoying Taco Tuesdays, preparing himself for the big game against Lafayette, Emmanuel Mudiay will be playing professional basketball in China for $1.2 million.
Mudiay was Rivals.com's #2 overall prospect for the 2014-15 class, and committed last August to play for Larry Brown at Southern Methodist University, which was considered a major recruiting coup for SMU. Mudiay would've been the top basketball committment at SMU in decades, the best NBA prospect to play there since Jon Koncak almost 30 years ago.
Then, in mid-July, Mudiay announced he would not attend SMU and would instead play overseas, later inking a one-year contract with Guangdong of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Why Mudiay chose to play overseas is a little bit of a mystery. Many have observed that he would have serious issues remaining eligible to play college basketball after some serious question marks about his high school program, the now-defunct Prime Prep Academy, emerged. For his part, Mudiay said that he was playing overseas in order to make money to support his family, and Mudiay was in fact cleared by the NCAA clearinghouse to play at SMU, although that was unknown until after he signed with Guangdong.
As a player, Mudiay is a great athlete who excels at getting to the bucket. He possesses a very quick first step, and he's a strong finisher at the basket. One of the things that interests me most about playing overseas is that he'll be able to develop his game against bigger, stronger men rather than college kids. It'll be a great test of his strength.
He's a great transition player, and at 6-5 with a 6-8.75 wingspan, he's a big, long guard who projects to be a good defender. Stop me if you've heard this one before, but he needs to work on his outside shooting. His jump shot is, to be polite, broken. His mechanics are out of whack, his release point is very late, and as a result, his shot is pretty flat. It needs some real work.
Mudiay's decision to play overseas has drawn a lot of comparisons to when Brandon Jennings opted to play professionally in Italy rather than attend the University of Arizona, and it's actually a pretty solid comparison. Jennings was Rivals' #4 prospect in the 2008-09 freshman class, and accepted $1.6 million to play for Lottomatica Roma, plus an endorsement deal from Under Armour. Jennings ended up being the 10th pick in the following NBA Draft by Milwaukee, and has had a pretty successful NBA career.
Playing overseas might never become the norm due to the collegiate tradition in the United States, but Mudiay will have a chance to get paid while playing against a higher level of competition in China, plus he'll avoid a lot of the hyper-criticism of his game that comes with playing big-time college basketball. If the plan works out for Mudiay, it could become a much more appealing option for top prospects in the future.
As for his draft stock, it's obviously way too early to tell how the decision will affect it. For some, the lack of exposure was probably a big help (see Exum, Dante). It's a situation to watch as the season progresses, even though you probably won't be able to watch Mudiay progress yourself.