If it wasn’t for all the tea in China -- well, a ton of money anyway -- UCLA would have real problems when it faced Southern Methodist in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday.
Emmanuel Mudiay may not be a name familiar to the average fan, but his absence makes the Mustangs, seeded sixth in the South regional, a little less of a challenge. OK, a lot less of a challenge.
Mudiay was born in the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of the Congo and escaped to the United States, where he developed into an extremely talented point guard. While at Prime Prep in Dallas, Mudiay was ranked the second best recruit in the nation by Rivals.com.
On Aug. 13, 2013, he committed to SMU as part of the Mustangs' 2014 recruiting class. Coach Larry Brown beat out Kentucky, Arizona and Kansas to get him.
Ah, but a year later, Mudiay opted to sign a one-year, $1.2-million contract with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese -- yes, Chinese -- Basketball Assn.
"If we had Emmanuel Mudiay right now, we’d be talking about maybe one loss, might be the biggest story in college," Brown told the Dallas Morning News this week.
It would be a little hypocritical for Brown to complain. Mudiay lasted longer as an SMU recruit than Brown did in his first head coaching job.
The vagabond Brown was hired at Davidson in 1972, but lasted only 84 days before jumping to the Carolina Cougars of the ABA.
Mudiay played only 10 games with the Tigers this season because of an injury.
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