Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Larry Brown Worried More American Prospects Will Follow Mudiay Overseas
NEW YORK — Larry Brown lost his best player when Emmanuel Mudiay opted to sign for $1.2 million in China instead of going to SMU.
Now the Hall of Fame coach is worried that Mudiay’s decision will set a trend for more American ballplayers.
“I think it will get worse,” Brown said Wednesday at American media day at the New York Athletic Club. “If he’s as good as I know he is and he’s the first, second or third pick in the draft, which I’m pretty confident he will be, I’m worried that a lot of kids will think about it.
“They won’t think of [Jeremy] Tyler, they won’t think of [Brandon] Jennings, they won’t think of so many kids that have come out early and are not playing anymore. So we gotta address that.”
The 6-foot-5 Mudiay is projected as the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft even though he’s now playing for Guangdong in China, where he has had mixed results so far.
“He’s done pretty well,” Brown said of Mudiay, who passed through the NCAA Clearinghouse on the academic side but may have faced amateurism issues. “He’s trying to adjust to the food which is a challenge but he’s got his mom and his brother and his cousin there.”
Brown says he texts with Mudiay, too.
“I hear about him every day and I’m excited for him. I am not excited for the precedent it might set but you gotta recognize a lot of kids when they have the opportunity to help their families, it’s tough to pass up but it’s not a good message for young people and hopefully the NBA will address it.”
It has been speculated that some top level recruits such as Skal Labissiere, a 6-11 big man out of Memphis, might follow suit and head overseas.
“Overseas is an option,” Labissiere told Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com in July. “I don’t know yet for sure. We’ll see. But that is a lot of money.”
Other Americans, like Jennings and Tyler, have gone overseas and had tough times.
“My situation is similar to Brandon Jennings’ one, but there are differences between Italy and China,” Mudiay told Enea Trapani of Sportsando.
He added: “I’m playing in a team that every year fights to win the title, so they are like the San Antonio Spurs.”
Brown would like to see the NBA adopt a model similar to baseball.
“Let them come out after high school if they’re great,” Brown said. “If not, help make the college game better, stay in school, give us a chance to coach and teach kids not only how to play but how to be a pro.”
Brown said he understands some people like Mudiay make decisions based on financial need, but believes some agents are “telling kids the wrong things.”
Meantime, SMU was picked second in the American behind defending national champ UConn — and the Mustangs picked up five first-place votes.
One can only imagine how many they might have received if Mudiay was in uniform.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.