COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Emmanuel Mudiay’s surprising jump to China last week makes him at least the third basketball player in the last seven years to skip college to play professionally overseas. College coaches and elite high school players here for USA Basketball’s U17 Team Trials aren’t all sold on this as a trend, at least not yet.
Beginning with the 2006 NBA draft, the league ruled that players could not enter the draft unless they were at least 19 and a year removed from their high school graduation, leading to the era of the “one-and-done,” basketball players who did a one-year internship of sorts on college teams before entering the NBA draft.
In 2008, Brandon Jennings an ALL-USA first-team guard from Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), was the first to take another route, bypassing his commitment to Arizona to play in Italy. The year overseas didn’t hurt Jennings’ draft stock (he was drafted No. 10 overall in 2009) and the Detroit Pistons guard is averaging 16.7 points and 6.1 assists for his career.
In 2009, power forward Jeremy Tyler, who had originally committed to Louisville, took the international route before his senior year at San Diego High. He lasted only 10 games with Maccabi Haifa of the Israel Super League before coming home. He went on to play for the Tokyo Apache in 2010-11 and was drafted 39th overall in the 2011 draft by the Charlotte Bobcats. He has bounced around with several teams, and has played more games in the D League than the NBA.
Mudiay, a 6-5 guard and ALL-USA first-team player in 2014, played at Prime Prep Academy (Dallas) the past two seasons and had signed with Southern Methodist, before announcing he would instead play in China this season, citing his family’s finances. Jennings for one, approves of the move.
“Emmanuel Mudiay’s one-year deal with Guangdong of the China Basketball Association will pay him $1.2M. That’s Baller! Do what you gotta do,” Jennings tweeted.
While the move may pay off for Mudiay, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon sees the international option as an anomaly, an even rarer subset than the one-and-done players.
“It’s an outlier,” Dixon said while at Team Trials for USA Basketball U17 team. “Now, it could start a trend, if (the NBA) goes to the two-year deal, because instead of being in school for eight months, the players are looking at 24 months. Whatever the need or no need, the clock is ticking for some of these players. But, there aren’t that many guys that we’re talking about. The ratio of articles regarding one-and-done guys might be the highest ratio in America. You might have five one-and-done guys a year.”
UNLV coach Dave Rice says the lure of college will be too strong for most players to pass up.
“I think it will happen occasionally, but for the most part, players want to go to college and compete in the NCAA tournament,” Rice said. “I think the NCAA has been extremely responsive in terms of student-athlete welfare issues and I think that the recent changes have been extremely progressive and another reason why players will continue to go to college. Certainly, you’re always going to have individual kids who go to Europe or overseas to play. I still think the ultimate dream of kids playing is to be in the NBA draft and the vast majority of the guys drafted in the NBA are still coming from college.”
Team USA U17 player Diamond Stone, who averaged 24.2 points and 13.2 rebounds a game while leading Dominican (Milwaukee) to the Division 4 state title this past season as a junior, said that the international option may be attractive to players whose families are having financial difficulties.
“I think it will be a trend,” Stone said. “Some people have to support their family more than others. Some people may be in poverty and they may try to get easy money overseas and get money so they can provide for their families. Some people get to college and get to the NBA with the long route and some people take the short route. Maybe those that do don’t like the college setting.”
Another U17 player, Seventh Woods, who led Hammond (Columbia, S.C.) to a 21-5 record while averaging 20 points a game last season as a sophomore, sees the move being used infrequently. That is, unless players have to wait two years before entering the draft.
“It will still be pretty rare and it depends on each individual’s situation,” Woods says. “Obviously, to do that, you have to be more mature, both mentally and physically. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more guys go to Europe if they made it two years.”
Villanova coach Jay Wright says Mudiay’s move has gotten the attention of recruits, even if the international choice will always be a rare one.
“I think for certain kids, it’s the right move,” Wright said. “But there are only a few kids who are good enough, are mature enough and have the family situation where they could go away from home at that age. It’s hard enough for guys who go to play overseas after college. That’s why I think this is an outlier, but I do think (Mudiay’s decision) has opened kids’ eyes to do it.”