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Julio Chitunda's African Message

Mudiay, a case-study


SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - Emmanuel Mudiay has become an intriguing case-study to follow in the next few months because of his decision to pull out of a college career to embrace professional basketball at the age of 18.

Mudiay, who is projected to be a top selection in the 2015 NBA Draft, had committed to play for Southern Methodist University (SMU) under renowned coach Larry Brown. Instead, the native of the Democratic Republic of Congo has reached an agreement in principle with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the China Basketball Association (CBA) on a one-year deal that will pay him a staggering $1.2 million.

The 1.97m point guard, a top prospect in US high school rankings, will not be eligible for the NBA draft until he turns 19.

If Mudiay's move proves successful - and he goes on to be a top selection in next year's draft - he will raise the number of African-born players entering the NBA without completing their degrees.

As far as I am aware, Nigeria's Festus Ezeli will become an exception, as one of the few African-born players to conclude their college studies before declaring for the draft (he graduated in economics in 2012 prior to being selected by the Golden State Warriors in that year's draft).

Surely Mudiay's decision was not taken lightly and we shouldn't blame him for skipping his college career.

However, if his professional experience goes wrong at such a young age, surely he might have to reconsider his academic life.

It has to be understood that Mudiay is not the first and probably won't be the last to make such a decision.

He is following in the footsteps of Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings who skipped a college career in 2008 to play professionally in Italy before being selected 10th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.

However, Mudiay seems to have a reason to make such a bold move, at least this was my impression when coach Brown issued a statement saying that: "Emmanuel has decided to pursue professional basketball opportunities. This is not an academic issue, since he has been admitted to SMU, but rather a hardship issue. After talking to Emmanuel, I know he really wants to alleviate some of the challenges his family faces and recognizes that he has an opportunity to help them now.

"While I believe that college is the best way to prepare for life and the NBA, Emmanuel's situation is unique. We were excited about having him at SMU, but we understand this decision and wish him the best."

Mudiay's family moved to the USA over a decade ago after escaping the civil war in the DR Congo when he was a toddler.

But there are a lot more reasons to follow Mudiay's career, and because of his athleticism and explosion to attack the basket, Mudiay is often compared to Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook.

In April, Mudiay put on a dominant performance at the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit by leading all scorers with 20 points, even though the World Select Team lost 84-73 to the USA Basketball Men's Junior National Select Team.

Famed college head coach Billy Donovan of the Florida Gators could not sum it up better: "If it goes well and he (Mudiay) has success over there and he's a top-10 pick, some other people may look at it. I think it will cause a ripple effect if he has a lot of success."

Julio Chitunda


FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

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Julio Chitunda

Julio Chitunda

Julio Chitunda, a University of Sheffield alumni and former semi-professional player, has worked for a number of Portuguese media outlets as well as The Press Association and covered international basketball for over a decade. Through his column, he offers an insight into basketball on the world's second biggest continent.