In every sport there are a certain set of players that possess the physical traits that can cause a scout to salivate at the sight of them: the “five-tool” prospect in baseball, the strong-armed, yet mobile quarterback, the big point guard. Ever since Magic Johnson wooed fans in the 1980s, GMs and coaches alike have fantasized about the idea of having a player with the vision and ballhandling of a lead guard trapped in the body of a big man. Think I’m exaggerating? Re-watch the UCLA-Florida Sweet 16 game; how many times did they bring up UCLA’s Kyle Anderson‘s size and length?
This type of player doesn’t come around every day.
Enter Emmanuel Mudiay, a 6-5 point guard with handle, vision and quickness. A player who can beat you attacking the rim with an array of dribble moves, or can thread the needle and deliver the perfect pass to the roll man. Did I mention his stellar midrange game yet? The No. 5 prospect, according to ESPN’s 2014 Top 100, Mudiay can do just about anything on the court.
His story is about as incredible as his talent: Mudiay was born in Zaire, the capitol of the Democratic of Congo. While kids in the United States were entertained with Nintendo 64 and PlayStation, Mudiay was living in the midst of the Second Congo War. When his mother left to attain asylum for her family, Mudiay and his two brothers stayed behind with their grandparents.
Before partaking in the festivities of the McDonald’s All-American Game, Mudiay spoke about his incredible background and his life on and off the basketball court.
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Dime: You’re pretty big for a point guard (6-5, 200 pounds). Do you watch any of the big guards in the NBA and try and study their games?
Emmanuel Mudiay: Sometimes I do, but you I’m just blessed to have this opportunity to be a big guard, I think definitely it helps experiences, really.
Dime: Who do you look up to as a role model? Do you try and take anything from anybody else’s game and add it to yours?
EM: I pick pieces of everybody’s game: different players not even position wise–it can be a big, a guard, small forward, and my brothers; they helped me a lot with that too.
Dime: I saw that your one brother (Jean-Micheal) actually plays for SMU, and you give him a lot of credit for your style play. What’s it like knowing you’re able to play with him again?
EM: It’s a dream come true, no doubt it’s a blessing. I prayed about the decisions that I made and it led me to SMU, and he was there too, so it should be fun. Growing up I used to model my game after him a little bit and my oldest brother (Stephane), so it’s going be fun to play with somebody that I’m really close with.
Dime: Can you give us details as to what led you to pick SMU over schools like Kentucky or Baylor?
EM: When I think about it I felt like it was the best spot. Larry Brown, it’s only a couple minutes from the house and my mom can come to every home game. The relationship I built with the coaching staff also, like I said Larry Brown, he has connections with everybody who knows the game and he can teach me a lot.
Dime: Yeah, he definitely has the connections. He’s actually the only coach to win championships in both college and the pros. What does that mean to you? Was it important to play for an once-in-a-lifetime coach like that?
EM: No doubt, in my opinion he’s still the best coach there is out there with college and the NBA. I just think he’s a great coach; he’s a Hall of Fame guy. But, the most important thing is he’s a great person and he treats me like I was his own child already, and I mean I haven’t even came. It’s a blessing to have somebody like that.