Will Emmanuel Mudiay Start a Trend by Leaving SMU to Play Overseas?

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Will Emmanuel Mudiay Start a Trend by Leaving SMU to Play Overseas?
USA Today

Emmanuel Mudiay's decision on Monday to head overseas to play basketball instead of going to Southern Methodist University should strike fear throughout the college basketball world.

According to a tweet from ESPN's Jeff Goodman:

Mudiay's brother told Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn that this decision was made for financial reasons. Multiple reports, the first of which came from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, said Mudiay's decision had to do with eligibility concerns. A source told ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman that the "NCAA is on him, and he's worried." 

What the Mudiays are selling is tough to buy, especially considering that Mudiay's high school, Prime Prep Academy, doesn't exactly have a stellar reputation when it comes to academics or with the NCAA. 

Whatever the reason, it no longer matters for Mudiay and his future. NBA teams are not going to care whether he skipped out on SMU because of eligibility concerns or money reasons.

What does matter for college basketball is how this next year plays out for Mudiay, the top-rated point guard in the 2014 class.

Mark Duncan/Associated Press

Mudiay is the first high-profile player to make this decision since Brandon Jennings did so six years ago. The expectation was that others would follow.

But they haven't, and Mudiay probably wouldn't have if there weren't extenuating circumstances. The reason Jennings' wasn't a trendsetter was that his experience wasn't exactly ideal. He played only 17 minutes per game for Virtus Roma in the Italian League. Jeremy Tyler, another player who went overseas skipping his senior year of high school, is another cautionary tale. Tyler lasted only 10 games in one season in Israel before quitting the team to return home. 

Everything has worked out for Jennings in the long run because he was still drafted 10th and has had a successful NBA career. But the easy thing to do is still to go spend a year playing for a great American college coach—as Mudiay planned to do playing for Larry Brown—become a brand name and then go to the NBA. 

Mudiay now has a chance to change the perception that Jennings' experience created. 

If Mudiay has a successful season wherever he is playing and ends up as the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft next summer, his path is one that more would begin to consider. 

The advantage he could have is that scouts are sure to evaluate him through a different lens because of where he's playing. He may get the benefit of the doubt for any holes that show up in his game because he's playing against professionals. Jennings got the benefit of the doubt that he was a good talent coming off the bench because he was sitting behind professionals.

What Mudiay has already done—becoming one of the highest-rated recruits in the U.S.—is also sure to resonate more in a year overseas than it would have if he went to SMU. Opinions on players change after their games are dissected in college. 

James Crisp/Associated Press

That "smaller sample size" impression just saw Australian guard Dante Exum drafted fifth overall last month. Exum had a great showing at the Nike Hoops Summit a year ago and then played in relative obscurity this past year in Australia. He was a draft pick mostly based off one week of basketball rather than five months like his counterparts.

This was not the only avenue Mudiay could have taken. He could have gone to SMU and risked not being allowed to play—something Enes Kanter did at Kentucky four years ago—and he still would have gotten some value out of spending a year being tutored by Brown. Kanter was still a No. 3 pick. 

Mudiay also could consider the D-League if he wanted to stay in the States. Of course, it would be a tough sell that financial reasons were what was keeping him from SMU if he went that route. The D-League doesn't pay much, which is why it is still not an enticing option for the best prep players.

That's why college basketball should not fear the D-League as a threat to become the NBA's true minor league, even if Adam Silver gets his way and the age limit is increased to 20. 

College basketball is still the most logical avenue to be trained and then get paid. But going overseas—and getting paid immediately—could become a more realistic option for the best prospects. 

So while many American players will not get to see Mudiay play this year, they will be watching what happens to him over the next year. And the college basketball community will be keeping close tabs as well, secretly rooting against Mudiay so more do not follow.

 

C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR.

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