Emmanuel Mudiay’s decision to skip college and spend his mandatory one season in China has sparked a flurry of speculation over whether or not that path is one that’s replicable for elite prospects in the Class of 2015 and beyond.
When you look at the numbers involved with Mudiay’s decision to turn pro — a seven-figure deal with the Guandong Southern Tigers and an apparel deal with Under Armour — it’s not hard to figure out why, either. If avoiding that one season in NCAA purgatory doesn’t hurt a player’s NBA Draft standing, long-term potential or their ability to earn money off of endorsements, than why play for free when it’s possible to play and get paid?
Because, frankly, it’s not that simple. In some cases, skipping college would a) hurt draft standing, b) hinder long-term potential and c) limit future endorsement money.
Thon Maker is a top five recruit in the Class of 2016, but there is all kinds of speculation regarding his future. Will he reclassify? Will he try to go pro straight out of high school? His guardian, Ed Smith, broke down some of the decision-making process with Jeff Rabjohns of Peegs.com over the weekend:
“If the high school to pro opportunity were there, that’s something you ask kids, but there is no high school to pro opportunity. Going to a different country won’t be a problem for Thon,” Smith told the website. “Sometimes in college, you have an opportunity to grow socially. Also you have the opportunity to get in a lot of living rooms. People see you. And you have an opportunity to build who you are. If a kid’s not ready to go in there and deal with 30-year-old men, you have to be careful how you do these things.”
Maker is a native of Sudan and spend part of his youth in Australia. Moving to a different country wouldn’t be an issue for him, just like it wouldn’t be for top 2015 recruits Ben Simmons (Australia) and Skal Labissiere (Haiti).
But, as I wrote in depth here, going pro overseas limits the opportunity for a player to build a brand by playing on national television every night for a year and, especially in the case of big men, means that they’ll spend a full season battling with grown men, some of whom are former NBA players and/or college all-americans, that don’t appreciate having some of the limited number of professional basketball-playing jobs taken up by hot-shot young kids trying to skip a step in their development.
It’s not as easy of a decision as it seems.