Emmanuel Mudiay, the top-ranked guard in the freshman class of 2014, told Sports Illustrated on Monday that he plans to forgo playing for SMU and pursue professional opportunities immediately.
"I was excited about going to SMU and playing college basketball for coach Brown and his staff and preparing for the NBA," Mudiay said in a statement relayed by his brother, Stephane, to SI. "But I was tired of seeing my mom struggle. And after sitting down with coach [Larry] Brown and my family, we decided that the best way for me to provide for my mom was to forgo college and pursue professional basketball opportunities. I am grateful for Prime Prep coach [Ray] Forsett for developing me into the player and man that I am, and I am also grateful for coach Brown's guidance and his support. This has nothing to do with my eligibility in any way."
Mudiay, a 6-foot-5 point guard, is considered a possible No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, and was expected to help lead SMU to a top-25 ranking and its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1993. His commitment to the Mustangs in August 2013 was considered a coup for Brown, who persuaded Mudiay on the chance to stay home -- his family moved from the Congo to Arlington, Texas when he was a child -- and play with his brother Jean-Micheal, a reserve guard who joined the roster last season. Emmanuel Mudiay told SI that he passed on playing for a superteam at Kentucky, which had made him a recruiting priority, because "I wanted to do something different."
But the Mudiay family began reaching out to agents last week to discuss potential professional opportunities abroad, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Sources told SI that despite the family's claim that this was not an eligibility related decision, concerns over an NCAA investigation did play a role in the move. It had been Mudiay's intention to play for SMU until recently, but he and his family met with the Mustangs staff this week to inform them of their decision.
In a statement released Monday, Brown said: "This is not an academic issue, since [Mudiay] has been admitted to SMU, but rather a hardship issue. After talking to Emmanuel, I know he really wants to alleviate some of the challenges his family faces and recognizes that he has an opportunity to help them now."
Mudiay graduated this year from Prime Prep Academy in Dallas. The school was co-founded by former two-sport star Deion Sanders and has seen several of its graduates ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA.
According to sources, Mudiay's preference is to play abroad in China or Europe on a lucrative one-year contract rather than in the NBA Development League. He could follow a path similar to that of Brandon Jennings, who was rated the No. 1 guard in the freshman class of 2008 but passed on a chance to go to Arizona -- a decision that also was rumored to involve eligibility issues -- and signed a $1.65 million deal with Lottomatica Roma in Italy's Serie A before being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2009.
-- Chris Johnson contributed to this report