Should Joel Embiid leave Kansas and declare for the 2014 NBA draft?
He's asking for a friend here.
No, seriously, Embiid is asking for a friend here. More specifically, he's seeking advice from Luc Mbah a Moute of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
According to ESPN's Jeff Goodman, the 7-footer will consult Mbah a Moute before making his ultimate decision:
While fellow freshman Andrew Wiggins will leave after the season, Kansas teammate Joel Embiid told ESPN that he will talk to the Jayhawks coaching staff and also his mentor, fellow Cameroon native and NBA player Luc Mbah a Moute, before making a final decision concerning his NBA future.
Embiid said he's not yet thinking about the decision just moments after watching the Jayhawks get knocked out of the NCAA tournament with a loss to Stanford in the round of 32.
Both Embiid and Mbah a Moute were born in Cameroon and The Wall Street Journal's Ben Cohen notes that the two have some history:
Coaching at that camp was Cameroon native Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the Minnesota Timberwolves forward, who was immediately smitten with Embiid's natural repertoire of moves. "Those were moves that guys who had been playing for years were making," said Mbah a Moute.
Mbah a Moute brought Embiid to another camp in Johannesburg, South Africa and later convinced Thomas Embiid, the boy's father, to let Embiid come to the U.S. to play high-school basketball.
Upon joining Kansas this season, Embiid quickly took college basketball by surprise. As Goodman notes, he dethroned teammate Andrew Wiggins as the top prospect in plenty of mock drafts with his combination of size and athleticism, as well as his sponge-like learning curve.
Despite averaging an impressive 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 23.1 minutes per game this season, Embiid's immediate future has been in limbo for months.
Back in January, Embiid indicated to Kansas coach Bill Self that he wasn't sure if he was disciplined enough to succeed at the NBA level.
"One day I was talking to [Kansas head coach Bill Self] and I was like, 'Yeah, I don't even know how to drive yet.' Eating healthy," Embiid told ESPN's Dana O'Neil. "I don't know how to do that yet. I don't know if I feel like I'm ready for all of this."
Uncertainty has only increased after the big man suffered a back injury that sidelined him for the tail end of the regular season and the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.
Injuries are considered more detrimental to centers than they are to other positions because of how physical they're expected to play down low. Teams don't want players with glass limbs battling for rebounds and attempting to play above the rim. It's a recipe for disaster.
Goodman suggests that Embiid's once-sky-high draft stock will now be "determined by the medical evaluations on his back." He does add that he's unlikely to fall out of the top three.
Embiid's stock has never been the biggest question, though. If he wishes to declare, he's going to be selected early. Whether he falls in the top three or five won't matter. Lottery teams are going to be interested.
All along, it's been Embiid's indecision that's generated headlines. After missing out on the NCAA tournament, it's no surprise, then, that his decision has become that much harder. Consulting a current NBA player should help him navigate the process.
At the same time, Mbah a Moute and Embiid are cut from different molds. Mbah a Moute can explain life in the NBA, but he was drafted 37th overall in 2008 after spending three years at UCLA. He doesn't know what it's like to have teams potentially tanking for his services, nor is he a 7-footer who has battled injuries in the past.
No matter who Embiid turns to, the decision is inevitably his. Should he pass up millions of dollars for a chance to hone his craft even further or does he take his leap of faith now with only one year of college ball to his name?
"I'm not worried about that right now," Embiid told Goodman after Kansas fell to Standford.
Maybe he's not worried now, but he will be. June is coming, and Embiid has a life-altering decision to make.
Here's hoping Mbah a Moute gives good advice.
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