In a recruiting coup that was announced at halftime of Saturday night's Under Armour Elite 24 game in Brooklyn, elite point guard prospect Emmanuel Mudiay declared for Larry Brown and SMU. Mudiay, a consensus top-five player in the Class of 2014 and a Texas native, chose the Mustangs over Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Kansas.
Mudiay, who sparkled in the showcase game at July's Adidas Super 64 camp in Las Vegas, was expected by many to pick John Calipari's Wildcats and become a key cog in the next one-year rebuild on tap in Lexington. In the last couple of days, though, sentiment from recruiting analysts started to lean unexpectedly and sharply toward SMU, and Mudiay made it official Saturday night.
Obviously, in comparison to the other programs on Mudiay's list, SMU's basketball pedigree pales in comparison, but the Mustangs should be much improved this season in their debut in the new American Athletic Conference. They may be good enough to think about an NCAA at-large bid if everything goes well. The Mustangs last made the NCAA tournament in 1993.
Now, landing a top local talent like Mudiay for next season could help steer additional quality players to the program. In a league where, after UConn and maybe Cincinnati there is ample space available to establish yourself (Louisville is out after this season), this could end up being the moment the Mustangs look back on as a landmark turning point. Brown, already in his early 70s, isn't a long-timer at the helm, but he certainly can still coach, and now he's shown that he can land elite talent to go with his tactical acumen. If he can get things going in Dallas before he eventually leaves, it will be that much stronger a gig for his successor, whether that's current assistant Tim Jankovich or someone else.