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SMU’s Emmanuel Mudiay on turning pro: ‘I was tired of seeing my mom struggle’


Emmanuel Mudiay will be skipping college and making the jump to the professional ranks overseas for a season, according to a report from Scout.com.

Mudiay, a 6-foot-5 lead guard from Dallas, is the No. 2 recruit in the Class of 2014. He’s expected to be a lottery pick whenever he becomes eligible for the NBA Draft. He committed to his hometown SMU Mustangs over Kentucky last summer and was a pivotal piece in the expected breakthrough for Larry Brown’s team; he’s the biggest reason that NBCSports has SMU as a preseason top ten team.

Jean-Michael Mudiay provided NBCSports with a statement from Emmanuel: “I was excited about going to SMU and playing college basketball for coach Larry Brown and his staff and preparing for the NBA, but I was tired of seeing my mom struggle. After sitting down with my coach, coach Brown, and my family, we decided that the best way for me to provide for my mom is to forgo college and pursue professional basketball opportunities. I am grateful for coach Brown’s guidance and support. I am grateful for Prime Prep and Coach Forsett for making me into the player that I am today. This is in no shape or form because of the NCAA or any eligibility issues.”

His statement differs from a myriad of reports that this decision stemmed from amateurism concerns and the potential that he’d end up ineligible to play in college.

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That there were potential eligibility issues aren’t all that surprising for Mudiay. He’s spent the past two seasons at Prime Prep, a charter school founded by Deion Sanders that has been in the news quite a bit for the issues that they have had running and funding the program. It’s not a secret that every athlete at Prime Prep would have to wrangle with the NCAA over their eligibility. Almost a year ago to the day, LSU freshman Jordan Mickey and TCU freshman Karviar Shepard were initially ruled ineligible by the NCAA, but they won an appeal a few weeks and were allowed to play immediately.

But according to multiple reports, the reason that Mudiay made the decision to turn pro are concerns over his status as an amateur, not issues with Prime Prep’s academics. There are people that are worried about a looming NCAA investigation.

Brown released a statement Monday afternoon as well: “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.”

Losing Mudiay is just a devastating blow for Larry Brown’s club, as he had a chance to be the AAC Player of the Year on a team that was likely the favorite to win the league. He’s a powerful and athletic lead guard that can take over, an elite, game-changing talent. Put him on the floor with some of SMU’s other players — Nic Moore, Markus Kennedy, Yannick Moreira, Keith Frazier, Ben Moore — and allow Brown to work his magic moving those chess pieces, and you’re looking at a Final Four caliber club.

Without him, the Mustangs should still making the NCAA tournament and compete with the likes of Memphis and UConn for the league title, but that special season they were on the brink of having? That’s likely out the window.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.