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Emmanuel Mudiay's surprising jump to China makes him at least the third basketball player in the last seven years to skip college to play professionally overseas. College coaches and elite prep players here for USA Basketball's under-17 team trials aren't all sold on this as a trend, at least not yet.
In 2008, Brandon Jennings, a guard out of Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), was the first to take another route, bypassing his commitment to Arizona to play in Italy.
Mudiay, a 6-5 guard and All-USA TODAY Sports first-team pick in 2014, played at Prime Prep Academy (Dallas) the last two seasons and had signed with Southern Methodist before announcing last week that he would play in China this season, citing his family's finances.
Jennings 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," tweeted Jennings, now with the Detroit Pistons.
While it might pay off for Mudiay, Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon sees the international option as an anomaly.
"It's an outlier," he said. "Now, it could start a trend if (the NBA) goes to the two-year deal (between high school graduation and eligibility for the draft), 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."
UNLV coach Dave Rice says the lure of college will be too strong for most to pass up.
"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."
Diamond Stone, who led Dominican (Milwaukee) to the Division 4 state title last season as a high school junior, said the international option might be attractive to players whose families are having financial difficulties.
"Some people have to support their family more than others," Stone said. "Some people may be in poverty and they may try to get easy money overseas 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."
Villanova coach Jay Wright says Mudiay's decision has gotten the attention of recruits, even if the international choice is likely to 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."