The Kings never got an up-close look at Emmanuel Mudiay.
He never came to Sacramento for a predraft workout or a standard sit-down interview with team officials.
To many, including the Kings, Mudiay remains a mystery.
He never played college basketball, playing professionally in China last season after a stellar high school career.
But should the 19-year-old be available at No. 6 in Thursday’s NBA draft, the Kings might be in a hurry to introduce themselves and get acquainted.
Mudiay, considered by many scouts as one of the best point guards in the draft, could be the point guard the team has been seeking since Mike Bibby, who manned the position from 2001 to 2008.
Sacramento has drafted potential point guards, and some of those young players had success. But none kept the starting job beyond the early stage of his career.
Tyreke Evans won the Rookie of the Year honor in 2010, but the Kings weren’t content on him playing the point, and they drafted Jimmer Fredette in 2011.
Isaiah Thomas, the last pick of the 2011 draft, eventually became the starter. But like Evans, Thomas was labeled more of a scorer, not a passer.
Last offseason, Darren Collison signed a three-year free-agent deal and is the starting point guard. But the Kings could use another to develop. Coach George Karl would like to have at least two point guards he can play together, and Mudiay could learn behind Collison.
Mudiay has been compared favorably to Washington All-Star John Wall.
“I think he’s an outstanding prospect, top-five good,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said in a conference call this week. “We may look back on this draft as we have with others and say, ‘Hey, he was better than some of the big guys. He was better than this, better than that.’ But he’s a top-five talent.”
Mudiay was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His father died in 1998, and in 2001, his family fled the war-ravaged country and arrived in the United States.
Coming out of Prime Prep Academy in Texas, Mudiay was rated the nation’s No. 2 high school prospect in the class of 2014 by Rivals.com, and he committed to SMU and legendary coach Larry Brown. But Mudiay instead headed to China, signing a one-year, $1.2 million contract with the Guangdong Southern Tigers.
Reportedly, Mudiay turned pro partly because he feared being ruled academically ineligible after two former prep teammates, LSU forward Jordan Mickey and TCU center Karviar Shepherd, had to appeal to be ruled eligible. Mudiay reportedly knew he would face similar issues, and the chance to earn income to help his family was too much to pass up.
Playing in China wasn’t an ideal experience. Mudiay sprained an ankle in the 10th game and appeared in only 12, but he averaged 18 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Some wonder if Mudiay hurt his draft status by not playing in college; others question the level of competition in China.
“I don’t think his decision to play in China will hurt him at all,” Bilas said. “In fact, I think it overall will help him a little bit. He didn’t have a choice. He couldn’t play college basketball last year, so he had to do something else.”
Mudiay (6-foot-5, 200 pounds) would give the Kings size at point guard they’ve lacked since Evans. His athletic ability would seem to fit Karl’s desire to play fast.
“With his size, his explosiveness, his ability to get into the lane and finish plays,” Bilas said. “He’s a good distributor, and he has the potential to be an excellent defender. He’s a very good defender that can be excellent in the NBA.”
Those are qualities the Kings need.
Vlade Divac, the Kings’ vice president of basketball and franchise operations, said no prospect would be ruled out based on declining to work out in Sacramento. That might be a wise policy because if Mudiay is available, he might be too good for the Kings to pass up.
- Today: 4 p.m.
- TV: ESPN
- Where: Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Kings pick: No. 6 in first round