A year ago, Emmanuel Mudiay was getting ready to play in exhibition games while preparing to go to college. The star point guard was headed to Southern Methodist University to play for legendary basketball coach Larry Brown. His talent was undeniable and there were many excited to see what he would bring to that program. But unfortunately, Mudiay never stepped foot on the court in college. Instead of making it to college, Mudiay headed to play in China. In July, Mudiay signed with the Guandong Southern Tigers for $1.2 million. The youngster, who was ranked second in some publications behind Jahlil Okafor in the class of 2014, was now a professional athlete and ready to get to work on his game. But unfortunately, Mudiay’s plan did not go as planned. He only played 12 games before he suffered an ankle injury that would keep him out most of the season. Many thought at that point he would sit out the rest of the season. But the team tried to bring him back when they fell down 0-2 to Stephon Marbury’s team in China. Unfortunately, he did not make a big difference as Marbury’s team still won the title. Mudiay got some exposure to the pro level and averaged 18 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Tigers. But Mudiay also averaged almost four turnovers a game, which is something that has to alarm some teams that see him as the player they want.
While Mudiay was overseas playing, his contemporaries were getting the experience of college basketball. The top two players that many talked about with this year’s crop of freshmen were Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. Both of these freshmen, along with Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell, were taking over the national media as the top freshmen everyone wanted to get if they declared for the NBA Draft. All three were highly talked about and they did not disappoint in college at all. Okafor averaged 17 points and nine rebounds as he was the man in the middle and a key cog for the Duke Blue Devils on their championship run. Towns was the best post-scoring option on a star-studded Kentucky team. He averaged 10 points and six rebounds for a Wildcats team that was upset in the Final Four by Wisconsin. And let us not forget the talented Russell. He was special for the Buckeyes, putting up 19 points, five rebounds and five assists per game. Unfortunately, his team did not make it as far as Okafor and Towns’ teams did, losing in the 3rd round of the NCAA Tournament. These three freshmen were standouts from the beginning of their collegiate careers and many expected them to be. But there was one other that stood out as well as the season went on. Duke’s Justise Winslow got stronger as the season went on and definitely took it to another level in the NCAA Tournament. As a result of his performances getting stronger as the season went on, he has garnered consideration for being a Top 5 pick in this year’s draft. All these other freshmen that have made their impact on college basketball have almost made Mudiay a forgotten man. Almost so that some mock drafts have misplaced the order of who should go where.
Listening to many talking heads, the talk has been about Okafor and Towns being the franchise-changing talents in this draft. But maybe those who are thinking they are the only ones may want to remember that Mudiay is still out there. Mudiay is a point guard that has non-traditional size. His turnovers may be a concern, but as he grows into the point guard position at the NBA level that will get better. Mudiay, like Okafor and Towns, could be a franchise-changers just like Okafor and Towns could be. Imagine if he were to go to the New York Knicks. Mudiay would fit the perfect style of point guard that Phil Jackson has been used to working with. Even though Jackson is the general manager, it’s hard to believe that Mudiay is not monitored by Knicks brass. And with the league turning into a point guard league, there is always a team that needs a lead guard and is willing to take one as early as possible. Towns and Okafor are big men that everyone covets, but many covet Mudiay as well. Many NBA scouts and general managers have him on their mind. But because of the lack of film on him after high school, those have arose questions in regards to his abilities to be a star to them. But don’t think they are not aware of what he could potentially do. Some even compare his abilities to that of Washington Wizards point guard John Wall. And the comparison, unfortunately, comes all the way down to the jump shot that Mudiay has to develop much like John Wall did.
Many that follow basketball closely are aware of the abilities of Mudiay on the court. And those same followers of basketball are excited to see him on an NBA court next year. But then there are some that are not aware of his abilities and the possibilities of him on the next level. Those that have forgot that Mudiay was once considered in the running for the top overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. His talent is there, but to some he is the forgotten man in this draft. Well, to those that have forgotten him that quickly, he will definitely be seen next year. And those that forgot about him will be rudely reintroduced to the man that could be the next star point guard in the NBA. Yes America, Mudiay is back.