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Mudiay sure to draw plenty of NBA eyes -- even in China

Teams already keeping tabs on former Dallas-area prep standout

POSTED: Nov 13, 2014 9:55 AM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper

NBA.com

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Point guard prospect Emmanuel Mudiay is off to a good start in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Emmanuel Mudiay, the potential No. 1 pick in the 2015 Draft, is in Asia now instead of Texas. He is playing for the Guangdong Tigers in Dongguan, China, not for Larry Brown's SMU Mustangs in Dallas as planned. He has single-handedly made China a destination on the scouting trail for the first time in years.

"All the lottery teams have to go," one front-office veteran said. "They have to. He's that good."

China hasn't been such an important scouting stop since the lead up to the 2007 Draft. That's when Yi Jianlian went sixth to the Bucks -- long before he would coincidentally become Mudiay's teammate with the Tigers -- and the same year the Lakers took Sun Yue at No. 40. Before that, in 2002, the Rockets took Yao Ming first overall.

The difference, of course, is those players are from China. Mudiay, a 6-foot-5 point guard with wow-factor athleticism, was born in Zaire (later the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1996, moved to the United States in 2001 and settled in the Dallas area, once attending high school with former Baylor standout Isaiah Austin. He was set for SMU and a season with Brown before he reportedly became concerned he was heading for trouble with the NCAA over academic or amateurism issues.

Mudiay said in a statement in July that he would play professionally overseas because he was "tired of seeing my mom struggle" financially and pointedly added that, "this is in no shape or form because of the NCAA or any eligibility issues."

Brown, the Hall of Fame coach, released his own comment that included, "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."

Much like Brandon Jennings, who went overseas for what would have been his freshman year of college before becoming Draft eligible (spending 2008-09 with an Italian team), Mudiay searched options and decided on the Chinese club on a one-year deal said to be worth $1.2 million. He also signed an endorsement deal with Under Armour.

He has started well for Guangdong, a team in the Chinese Basketball Association with a long history of players from the United States, including Aaron Brooks, James Singleton, Fred Jones, Lester Hudson, Lamond Murray and Smush Parker. His fast start is enough to spark speculation from front offices that Mudiay will leave before the regular season ends in mid-February to keep him healthy and keep his Draft standing high -- and keep him from the prying eyes of NBA scouts.

"They could," an executive said of the decision to shut down that Mudiay's inner-circle may face. "They could for sure."

Said an NBA general manager: "I could see, if his stock is raised, him saying, 'I'm checking out.' I could see that. Does he do it? I don't know. But look what happened with [Dante] Exum last year. It didn't really hurt him, did it? There's an argument to be made that [Mudiay] doesn't have to do anything."

Exum spent the second half of the 2013-14 NBA season working out in private in the United States, mostly in Los Angeles. But that was because his high school career had ended in Australia, not because he wanted to dodge inspection. Agents know by now, though, that a highly regarded player disappearing from sight raises the level of interest.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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