It actually happened.
Emmanuel Mudiay — a top three player nationally and either the best or the second best point guard in the country, depending on how you view Tyus Jones — picked SMU.
Let me say that again in case you didn’t hear me correctly the first time: the No. 3 player in the country, per Rivals, picked SMU — a program that hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since three years before Mudiay was born and whose national relevance is solely tied to their decision to hire the 73 year old Larry Brown — over Kentucky.
I still can’t believe it, but at this point it’s reality. And, it goes without saying, that reality may be the most important thing that’s ever happened to SMU basketball. Let’s ignore the obvious, that Mudiay, an athletic, 6-foot-4 lead guard that’s talented enough to spend just one year in college, will make SMU a contender for an NCAA tournament berth in the then Louisville-less AAC. The state of Texas, which is typically known for their high school football, has become one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country.
SMU is irrelevant in basketball. But before Scott Drew took over in the post-Dave Bliss days, Baylor was largely irrelevant as well. It took some time, but as Drew started landing some higher-profile players from the area — Henry Dugat, Curtis Jerrells and Kevin Rogers turned into Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones which led to the likes of Perry Jones and Isaiah Austin, among many other four and five-star from outside the Lone Star State — the Bears turned into a program that produces lottery picks and has made two Elite Eights in the last four years.
Considering where Baylor was a decade ago, that’s astounding.
Point being, you don’t have to be a relevant basketball program to find success in Texas if you can tap into the talent in the area.
And while Mudiay alone isn’t going to make SMU a regional or national power, he could be the guy that makes it ‘cool’ to go to SMU. Does his commitment get Myles Turner to rethink eliminating SMU? Will Elijah Thomas, Mudiay’s teammate at Prime Prep, factor SMU more heavily into his recruitment?
Who knows how long Larry Brown will be around — and who knows if Mudiay will even get eligible, given what’s going on at Prime Prep — but there’s no question that his commitment is a massive positive for the Mustangs.
But what about the Wildcats?
What will Kentucky do about their point guard situation?
The general consensus seems to be that the Harrison twins are going to be heading to the NBA after this season regardless of how they play. Tyus Jones has yet to make a decision about where he’ll be going to college, but popular opinion seems to have him heading to Duke. That means that in a class where two of the top three recruits are point guards, neither picked Kentucky and Coach Cal.
It would be silly to read into that any more than a kid from Dallas wanting to be close to home and a kid from Minnesota liking the academic side of playing at Duke, but it does create a bit of a conundrum for the Wildcats. A quality point guard is incredibly important to Kentucky’s offense, as evidenced by last year’s first round NIT exit.
So who can they get?
Well, of the uncommitted lead guards in 2014, Jordan McLaughlin is a Cali kid that doesn’t hold an offer from UK. Quentin Snider is from Louisville and was committed to be a Cardinal until last month. Josh Perkins waited all summer for an offer from Coach Cal and never got it. This week, however, Kentucky did offer Tyler Ulis a scholarship.
Ulis is small, but he’s tough, both physically and mentally. He’s an excellent creator off the bounce and really understands how to run a team. He’s not exactly a sharp-shooter, but he can hit a three when he’s left open.
I love Ulis. I love the way he plays. He’s not John Wall, but if Kentucky can surround him with talented big men and perimeter scorers, he’s the kind of leader that can distribute the ball and run that team.
And if that’s who Kentucky has to “settle” for, that’s not a bad spot to be in.