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Now that the proverbial draft dust has settled and the consensus is the Nuggets got a really good player in Emmanuel Mudiay, it’s time to learn a little bit more about Denver’s highest draft selection in over a decade. There’s all sorts of information scattered across the Internet regarding Mudiay and I’ve tried to cherry pick the very best stories out there to give you an idea of who Mudiay is as a person and as a basketball player…
For example, Paul Klee of the Colorado Springs Gazette did a recent phone interview with Larry Brown, the head coach of Southern Methodist University where Mudiay originally committed in high school. Brown had extremely high praise for Mudiay, even comparing him to current NBA All-Star, John Wall:
“I watch John Wall a lot,” Brown said. “Emmanuel is maybe not as quite as explosive as John. It’s close. But at this stage in this career he’s more advanced as a point guard. And I think John Wall is now one of the elite guards in the league, and I think Emmanuel can be that.
“I don’t want to put undue pressure on him. But they got a perfect kid for the way I look at their team. You’ve got (Kenneth) Faried, guys that can run. You’ve got (Danilo) Gallinari. They’ve got some pieces, and he wants to play fast.”
Meanwhile, The Denver Post has run numerous stories on the Nuggets’ first-round draft pick over the last several days. In a piece about his family upbringing, Cameron Wolfe detailed Mudiay’s basketball pedigree and corroborated Larry Brown’s admiration for the 19-year-old point guard just as in Klee’s story above:
Brown, a former Nuggets coach, was hit hard by the decision. He called Emmanuel the best young point guard he had ever seen. But he still offered Jean-Micheal, who played only 24 minutes in two seasons, the opportunity to remain on the team.
Woody Paige, on the other hand, wrote a Sunday column saying pretty much whatever skirted across his brain as his fingers typed. He translated Mudiay’s name in Hebrew, compared him to the legendary Walt Frazier, somehow misspelled “Nikola Jokic,” all while presenting exposition about Mudiay’s superb basketball esteem in high school:
With a combination of luck, pluck and the muck in Philadelphia, New York and especially Sacramento, the “giddy” Nuggets (as they described themselves) were able to giddy-up and secure a teenage sensation who, in the 2014 McDonald’s All-American Game, outballed every other guard, including D’Angelo Russell and Tyus Jones, and all but one of the bigs. Jahlil Okafor had 17 points and seven rebounds. In half a game, Mudiay had 15 points, six assists and two boards.
In national media news, SI.com’s Chris Mannix compiled an outstanding recap of Mudiay’s life leading up to the NBA Draft. In it he touches on Mudiay’s violent childhood in the Congo as well as his interesting year in China playing alongside drunk teammates:
Kinshasa, Congo’s capital and largest city, was a flashpoint. Stephane and Jean-Michel remember the charred, rotting corpses of people who had been girded by tires and burned alive. They remember the bullet-riddled bodies. They remember the pop of rifles and the rat-a-tat-tat of automatic weapons at night. Once a stray bullet tore through one of their windows, clipping a relative in the shoulder. “I try not to think about it,” says Jean-Michel, his voice trailing off. “Those images are hard to forget.”
The atmosphere was less inviting. Smoking is permitted in arenas in China. The thin cloud before games thickened by halftime, so Mudiay held his breath from the locker room to the floor. Some teammates, he says, smoked in the bathroom before games. One of them played drunk. “It was crazy,” says Mudiay. “He was one of our best players.” (Du claims smoking was “totally prohibited” by teams and drinking was not allowed during the season.)
Also from the national media is this excellent feature by Kurt Streeter for ESPN the Magazine. Streeter does an accurate job of verbalizing Mudiay’s game and quotes a scout who draws comparisons between Mudiay and Kobe Bryant:
He’s lived with a monkish devotion to basketball since he was a kid, says he thrives off the “mind-clearing release” it provides. He counts on one hand how many late-night parties he’s attended. He’s had one small glass of alcohol, in China, when he worried that not finishing the wine poured for him at a team banquet would be viewed as a cultural affront. He spends free time with family.
His skills are rare for someone nearly six and a half feet tall. He dribbles low and nimbly. His feet pad across the court almost soundlessly. His hands are large; he palms the ball with ease. His bounce passes skim across the court with a casual flick.
Three weeks after the lottery, he invites reporters to watch him at a sprawling gym in the San Fernando Valley, north of downtown Los Angeles. One is Mark Heisler, who has covered basketball for the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and others since the late 1960s. Mudiay sprints and cuts and launches toward the rim, unfurling a series of tomahawk jams. “Explosive. Wow!” Heisler says, wide-eyed. He compares Mudiay to Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, a young Kobe Bryant — even to Elgin Baylor. “I knew he was an athlete, but wow, I wasn’t expecting this. It’s possible that the moment he turns pro, he is the most athletic point guard there has ever been.” Heisler pauses. He adds an appropriate dose of caution, the same dose NBA executives have added when considering Mudiay. “Right now, remember, he’s working out against air.”
On the business front, it’s worth noting Mudiay is the first player of his draft class to have his own shoe, seen below:
And finally, videos. There’s no shortage of Mudiay footage across the Internet. Below are a few of the best: