By Jon Rothstein
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Emmanuel Mudiay, one of the top five players in the Class of 2014 committed to SMU on Saturday night.
It’s huge for the Mustangs. It’s enormous for Larry Brown.
And it’s just as big for the American Athletic Conference.
This commitment ensures what many once deemed unfathomable — programs in the AAC can now recruit any player in America.
Mudiay — who many scouts believe is a potential lottery pick 2015 NBA Draft — is a 6-foot-5 point guard with ridiculous power and upside. His pledge to Brown ensures that other coaches in the AAC can now pursue the best of the best without reservation.
Because a kid who could have played his college basketball anywhere decided to do it in a league that hasn’t even played a regular season game yet.
There are a few factors that need to be pointed out with Mudiay.
Is he a Texas kid that opted to stay home and play for a Hall of Fame coach in Brown? Without question.
Does his presence along with Nic Moore, Keith Frazier, Markus Kennedy, and Yanick Moreira make SMU a potential Top 25 team a year from now heading into the 2014-15 season? Absolutely.
But that doesn’t mean that other schools in the league can’t attract high-level talent to their respective programs on a regular basis. History has already proven that won’t be in the case.
Prior to Mudiay’s commitment on Saturday, several schools in the AAC — Cincinnati, UConn, Memphis, South Florida and SMU had all signed Top 100 level kids for this year’s (2013) freshmen class.
Many of these signings — especially for UConn, Cincinnati, and South Florida were done at the apex of realignment. There were no assurances of what league a recruit would play in, only a promise that he would compete in a certain program.
With all that said, the Bearcats still beat out several BCS schools for skilled forward Jermaine Lawrence and the Bulls scratched and clawed to get a legit big man in 6-10 John Egbunu. Both of those players were ranked among the Class of 2013’s top 60 prospects by most recruiting services.
Those types of additions for AAC schools could become more of a regular occurrence after Mudiay’s decision to attend SMU.
“It’s a game changer,” said one AAC assistant coach on Saturday in regards to what Mudiay’s commitment means to the conference. “No kid is going to be concerned about playing in our league because a top-five guy in the country just decided to do just that. Things were a bit of an unknown for a while but this kid going to SMU puts us in another category. Now we’ll all be able to go after anybody.”
And they will.
There was a stigma out there for a while that the AAC was the league left behind the new Big East after realignment. The conference’s brand is definitely different, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be as good or better. Mudiay’s commitment is a monumental boost to a league that’s yet to throw the ball up.
With Louisville still in the league for another year before they join the ACC, there’s a legitimate chance that the AAC could wind up getting more bids to the 2014 NCAA Tournament than the Big East. And now with Mudiay heading to SMU, there’s a palpable buzz surrounding a conference that still has yet to officially get started.
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