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Emmanuel Mudiay to China makes him even more of a case-study

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We now know where Emmanuel Mudiay is headed to spend his one season in NBA purgatory: China.

The No. 2 recruit in the Class of 2014 signed a contract with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association. The deal he signed is worth $1.2 million, according to Adrian Wojnarowski, and Mudiay has taken out significant insurance policies to protect himself against injury while he is abroad.

And now all eyes will be on Mudiay, with plenty of high school prospects watching to see how the former SMU signee will fare in the Far East.

From a basketball perspective, China is actually a pretty good landing spot for him. His athleticism is enough that it can overwhelm those players, and since the level of play is lower than that of a place like Italy or Spain, he should have a little more initial success than Brandon Jennings did during his one season with Virtus Roma. That said, moving to China is not going to be an easy thing to do. The cultural change will be massive. It won’t be an easy thing to adjust to for a 19 year old that wanted to stay home to play his college ball.

RELATED: Emmanuel Mudiay is now the most influential recruit in 2014

Regardless, Mudiay is now to new test case that will be used by elite prospects across the country to evaluate whether or not heading abroad is a viable alternative to spending a year playing college ball. Part of the reason that he ended up in China is that there isn’t exactly a market for one-year rentals of high school stars in Europe. Those clubs want to sign a four or five year deal with a kid that age, not operate as a way for him to cash seven-figure checks before heading back stateside.

“If you don’t want to sign a four or five year deal than you don’t get paid as an 18 or 19 year old,” one NBA scout told NBCSports. “European guys are looking and saying, ‘Would I rather be Mario Hezonja, stuck in Barcelona not playing and not able to get to the NBA, or would I rather be in the league like Alex Len?'”

There simply isn’t a market for that kind of contract.

“If you want to play in the NBA,” the scout continued, “which is what a lot of the Europeans and all of the Americans do, than signing a long-term deal with a big European club, which is the only way to get paid over there, is not a good option.”

After the announcement was made that Mudiay would be turning pro instead of heading to college, I said that he will have a lot of elite prospects from the younger high school classes keeping an eye on what he’s able to accomplish abroad. Because of the increased initial eligibility standards that the NCAA imposed, and due to the potential that Adam Silver institutes a two-and-done rule in the NBA, turning pro may be a more attractive option in the future.

Mudiay’s family said that this decision was made with financial stability in mind, and while there may be some truth to that statement, the bottom line is that Mudiay was probably never going to make it through the NCAA’s Clearinghouse after spending two years at Prime Prep. Even if he did, the NCAA was barreling down on him, putting him in a situation where he could end up facing a suspension. With more kids getting ruled ineligible and with the possibility of have to wait two seasons to get to the draft making the allure of a pro contract that much bigger, the pull from abroad will get stronger.

And if there is no market for this kind of contract to be signed in Europe, a successful season from Mudiay in China could end up making that where the elite recruits go to get their seven-figure payday.

Johnson, Paige help No. 9 Tar Heels roll past Panthers 85-64

North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks (4) dunks against Pittsburgh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Brice Johnson scored 19 points to lead a dominating offensive performance that helped No. 9 North Carolina beat Pittsburgh 85-64 on Sunday.

Marcus Paige added 15 points for the Tar Heels (21-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 59 percent to stay atop the league ahead of the next renewal of their fierce rivalry with Duke.

UNC had plenty of balance, shared the ball and got out in transition in arguably their best performance in weeks, using a 13-0 second-half burst to blow the game open. UNC finished with 26 assists on 32 baskets, 24 points off turnovers and scored 16 fast-break points after managing a combined five in the past two games.

Michael Young and James Robinson each scored 15 points to lead Pitt (17-7, 6-6). But the Panthers shot 37 percent and committed 19 turnovers, and a strong effort on the glass did little to offset their troubles.

The Tar Heels were playing their first home game in two weeks after a difficult three-game road trip that started with losses at Louisville and Notre Dame. Then came Tuesday’s game at Boston College, where the Tar Heels struggled against a winless league team then had a scare when Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams briefly collapsed in a second-half huddle after an attack of vertigo and had to leave the sideline for the rest of the game.

Williams was back in the office on Wednesday’s off day, returned to practice Thursday and told reporters Friday he was fine and even cracked jokes about a two-decade history with vertigo dating to his Kansas years.

Getting back home certainly helped everyone feel better. After wrestling with shooting struggles for much of the past month, UNC’s offense kicked back into an efficient and balanced gear, while Paige – the player the Tar Heels are practically begging to jolt free from a prolonged shooting slump – looked more like his old self against the Panthers.

That included one second-half play in which he caught a crosscourt pass from Theo Pinson in transition and made sure to step back behind the arc before burying a 3-pointer.

The Panthers had lost three of four since a 5-2 league start coming in, including 65-63 on a late tip-in at No. 12 Miami on Tuesday. And Pitt again had trouble getting their offense going, failing to crack 70 points for the third straight game.

TIP-INS

Pittsburgh: Second-leading scorer Jamel Artis scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting. … Pitt finished with a 41-29 rebounding advantage. … Pitt made 9 of 21 3-point attempts.

UNC: Justin Jackson scored 14 points. … UNC made 8 of 15 shots from 3-point range and 13 of 15 free throws. … Jackson and Pinson had six assists each. … UNC managed just one offensive rebound.

UP NEXT

Pittsburgh hosts Wake Forest on Tuesday.

UNC hosts Duke on Wednesday.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Denzel Valentine dominant as No. 8 Michigan State whips Indiana

Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (45) shoots over Indiana's Kevin Yogi Ferrell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
AP Photo/Al Goldis
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Trailing by one point at the half, Indiana appeared to be in good shape at No. 8 Michigan State. However the fact that they were unable to slow down Denzel Valentine, who scored 15 first-half points, was a major concern for Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. Sure enough the national Player of the Year candidate continued on his tour de force in the second half, scoring another 15 points and dishing out seven assists as the Spartans rolled to an 88-69 victory.

For the game Valentine finished with 30 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and just one turnover. Of Michigan State’s 48 second half points, Valentine had a hand in 29 of them with all seven of his assists resulting in Michigan State layups. It was a dominant performance from one of the nation’s best players, a versatile guard whose four games missed due to injury may have led to some overlooking him when it comes to those national Player of the Year conversations.

When Valentine’s on everything else flows smoothly for Tom Izzo’s team, as his ability to both score and create results in quality looks for teammates who would struggle if they had to get that part of the job done themselves.

The biggest beneficiary Sunday afternoon was forward Matt Costello, who finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Of Costello’s ten made field goals (10-for-12 FG) five were assisted by Valentine, and he accounted for 13 points and seven rebounds in the second half. As a team Michigan State shot 63.3 percent from the field and assisted on 16 of their 19 made field goals in the second half, turning a tight contest into a blowout.

Tum Tum Nairn returned the court for the first time in seven games, but he played just two minutes and his time on the court will be managed carefully by Izzo moving forward. For many teams not having your point guard at full strength would represent a crippling blow, but that hasn’t been the case for Michigan State thanks in large part to Valentine. Michigan State went 4-3 in those seven games without Nairn, but the three losses were by a total of three points.

Valentine’s ability to make his teammates better will be a key factor down the stretch for Michigan State, and that skill was what led to the Spartans blowing out Indiana on Sunday.