The best point guard in the class of 2014 will be thousands of miles away from an NCAA campus this season.
For the uninitiated, Emmanuel Mudiay, 247 Sports' No. 2 overall recruit who had committed to Larry Brown and SMU, announced Tuesday that he will skip college and play professionally overseas.
Stephane Mudiay provided Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn with a statement on behalf of his brother, explaining the decision:
1. "I was excited about going to SMU and playing college basketball for coach Brown and his staff and preparing for the NBA." ...— Luke Winn (@lukewinn) July 14, 2014
Mudiay 2: "But I was tired of seeing my mom struggle. And after sitting down with coach Brown and my family …"— Luke Winn (@lukewinn) July 14, 2014
Mudiay 3: "we decided that the best way for me to provide for my mom was to forgo college and pursue professional basketball opportunities."— Luke Winn (@lukewinn) July 14, 2014
For the Mustangs, this sucks. There's probably a more articulate way to put it, but that about summarizes how fans in Dallas are probably feeling.
Mudiay, a big, athletic guard with game-changing talent, would have immediately been a candidate for AAC Player of the Year. With him in the rotation alongside Nic Moore, Markus Kennedy, Yanick Moreira and Keith Frazier under the tutelage of the legendary Brown, the Mustangs would have been a legitimate Final Four contender.
Now, getting to Indianapolis becomes exponentially more difficult for the team, although as CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein argued, it's still not impossible:
SMU clearly won't have the same cache next season w-o Emmanuel Mudiay, but Mustangs are still the team to beat in the AAC. Very deep squad.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) July 14, 2014
Still, that what-could-have-been feeling will linger throughout the season. It sucks.
Fans of college basketball, however, shouldn't be nearly as worried. The 2014 class, even without Mudiay, is arguably just as captivating as the famous 2013 one. The sport will be fine without him, and looking further into the future, this kind of thing won't become a trend.
Of course, it's easy to see why some might think otherwise.
First, there's the monetary factor. Mudiay said it himself: He wanted to provide for his mother. With the NCAA unwilling to pay its true money-makers anything more than a scholarship and stipend—don't get me wrong, a scholarship can be infinitely valuable, but college basketball players generate far more revenue than they are compensated with—making a living overseas in preparation for the NBA can be too tantalizing to pass up.
Moreover, you have this potential idea from new NBA commissioner Adam Silver, via NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper:
Increasing the age limit to 20 is a priority for Adam Silver. It will be a topic of discussion once the union hires an executive director.— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) February 6, 2014
That extra year away from the NBA, combined with stricter eligibility standards in 2016, could push more kids away from college. But recent history suggests that going overseas to play is far from the optimal path.
In the last six years, a grand total of two elite prospects have taken the overseas route.
Brandon Jennings has developed into a good NBA player, but it's safe to say he didn't enjoy life in beautiful Italy.
“I’ve gotten paid on time once this year," he emailed to the New York Times in 2009, via Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy. "They treat me like I’m a little kid. They don’t see me as a man. If you get on a good team, you might not play a lot...That’s just how it is.”
Jeremy Tyler forwent his senior season of high school to play in Israel and Japan. The one-time top prospect was eventually taken in the second round of the draft and has played with three NBA teams (and four D-League teams) in the last three seasons.
Jennings' case is a reminder of the potential perils of culture shock. If kids think the transition from high school to college—where they are treated on campus like gods and often seen as go-to players—is tough, they are in for a rude awakening overseas, where they are treated like an insignificant speck and may struggle to fit in socially.
Tyler's case is a reminder that playing pro can just as easily hamstring a player's development on the court as it can expedite it.
In the next five years, how many top-100 recruits do you think will skip college?
So, yes, on the surface, it might seem like Mudiay's choice to make money, live independently on foreign soil and prepare for the NBA could soon become a popular decision.
But history tells us the gig isn't nearly as comfy as it looks.
While the changing landscape of the NBA's eligibility rules could provide a slight shift in the mindset on this particular topic, rest assured: There will be no dip in college basketball talent anytime soon.