Under Armour’s Emmanuel Mudiay on Why He’s Ready to Make the Jump to the NBA

Emmanuel Mudiay is ready to finally see himself wearing an NBA jersey. Are you? The 19-year-old phenom has NBA scouts salivating because of his uncanny athleticism and stout size at the point guard position, which already has people comparing him to Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook. Despite not playing in the NCAA with Larry Brown and SMU this past season, he caused tremors overseas with his stellar play.

Mudiay has tangoed with a bevy of elite guards, including Duke’s highly-touted point man Tyus Jones. On many occasions, scouts gushed at Mudiay’s performances during his high school days because of his innumerable skills. As Stephen A. Smith would say, the boy got game, possibly NBA All-Star-level game. Even though some analysts questioned Mudiay for his decision to go overseas, many appreciated his altruism. As Mudiay eloquently explained during our interview at Champs Sports in Times Square, he did it for his mother. Not only did Mudiay earn himself a contract in China, he performed well enough to keep his stock high for the NBA.

Now, he’s a top five NBA prospect ready to pounce on opposing guards in the Association. With a wild draft day looming, teams are hoping that he will be donning their respective jerseys. Will he be donning the venerable blue and orange for the Knicks, who have the No. 4 pick? Will he be playing alongside rookie standouts Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine for the T-Wolves at No. 1? Or will he get picked No. 2 and be mentored by the great Kobe Bryant and wear the purple and gold for the Lakers? The draft is full of sleepers, but Mudiay might be the biggest one of all because many of us still haven’t really seen him play.

I met up with Mudiay at his meet and greet in Times Square at Champs Sports to discuss playing overseas, the biggest thing he learned playing internationally, his comparison, and inking a deal with Under Armour to continue a legacy that is quickly making a name in the sneaker landscape.

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You didn’t play college ball last year. How excited are you to show the fans here your skills?
Man, I’m really excited. I’m gonna try do my thing and play the best that I can, you know what I’m saying? It’s a blessing. I give all the glory to God for giving me the opportunity to be playing in the NBA where I have a chance to be playing in the league against some big time players. So I’m gonna do my thing and do the best that I can every night. First, you know, it starts with myself. Then, I’ll be able to give the fans what they want too.

Personally, I would compare you to a John Wall, but who would you compare yourself to in the league and why?
Man, in the league, I think it’s a mixture of people to be honest with you. But honestly, I think I play like both of my brothers. You know they’re not in the NBA, but they just put their game in me. My little brother–he’s the athletic one. My older brother, Steph, he’s more like the smooth one, like a mellow type of guy. I got my own things for myself. So I think it’s all that in one, to be honest with you.

I hear that. How did you enjoy your time playing overseas? Do you have any regrets?
Nah, there weren’t no regrets at all. For first and foremost, I needed to take care of my mom. But at the same time, I wanted to really challenge myself by playing with grown men and stuff like that. I had a 24-second shot clock. It was NBA rules. So I feel like it did a real good job in preparing me also with the traveling and stuff like that.

Emmanuel Mudiay Under Armour
Under Armour

What’s the biggest thing you learned playing overseas?
It’s not just one, but just the profession and being a professional, man. Learning how to manage your time and stuff like that. You know, I didn’t have homework (Laughs). Homework was film to me. So that was just the biggest thing. I’ll say staying prepared and being prepared were the biggest things for me.

Obviously you have tremendous athleticism and great ball-handling abilities. Is there a particular skill that you’re hoping to showcase in the NBA that people may have not seen from you?
I mean, of course, everybody has questions about my shooting ability, which I’m very confident in. But that’s not the only thing that I’m working on. I’m working on the whole package. So I’m just going to come in there and do what I need to do and try to win. That’s the main thing that I’m trying to focus on. I’m trying to help bring a team to have a winning mentality.

Switching gears, why do you feel that you’re such a great fit for Under Armour?
We’re young. Me and Under Armour are the same age. We’re 19 years old (Laughs). So we’re growing together. The only big, big star right now they got is Steph [Curry]. Under Armour ain’t have a projected top pick in like forever, if ever. It’s a blessing and it’s a good opportunity for me and Under Armour to just grow together in basketball terms.

Do you already know what sneakers you’re going to wear next season?
Nah, I don’t know yet. I don’t know what shoe.

I gotta ask you this for the music fans. What’s the best album you’ve heard so far in 2015 that you’re playing like crazy right now?
Well there ain’t no album that I’m listening to. There’s different types of songs I’m listening to, but none specifically right now from any new albums.

Follow Carl on Twitter at @therealcl24