August 15, 2013

Why Baylor made the cut

Baylor's ties to Emmanuel Mudiay trace back three years to when he first burst on to the recruiting scene.

Then a freshman, the Bears were one the first to pursue the point guard. An offer later followed. Three years of diligent work have led to Baylor becoming one of the five finalists the Rivals No. 3 player has named. The others are Kentucky, SMU, Oklahoma State and Kansas.

"The Baylor coaches have really done a great job with him,'' Mudiay's brother Stephane said. "Coach [Jerome] Tang has really helped him feel comfortable. They're a fun and cool coaching staff. That's pretty important.''

The Prime Prep Academy star likely will set up visits to those schools - official and unofficial - once he returns from the 2013 Elite 24 game Aug. 24 in Brooklyn's (N.Y.) Tobacco Warehouse. Well, that actually might be four since he's planning to attend Kentucky's midnight madness event on Oct. 18.

There is much for Mudiay to consider. With Kentucky, he's looking at one of the Blue Bloods of College basketball. That's the same with Kansas. Oklahoma State has been consistent. SMU is trying to change its ways under Larry Brown.

With Baylor, Scott Drew's program keeps growing. The Bears are coming off the 2013 NIT championship and have been to the NCAA tournament Elite 8 in 2012 and 2010.

"The fact that it's a Christian school is a plus,'' Stephane said. "You don't get that too often. That's not going to be the main thing that Emmanuel is going to look at. He just wants to go to the school that's going to be the right fit for him. Baylor is one of them.''

Mudiay has taken two unofficial visits to Baylor including its midnight madness event in 2012. Scheduling a Baylor visit really isn't a matter of logistics because the school is so close.

Still, speculation has risen that Kentucky is the team to beat in this race. There is also conjecture over whether Baylor or SMU is running second. That probably depends on how you ask. That said, Stephane said all five teams are still being viewed equally.

"Everybody thinks that it's a done deal with Kentucky,'' Stephane said. "It's really not. That's why he cut it to those five schools. He likes them all. People may be saying one thing, but he's really wide open.''

Once the visits are, then the commitment could follow. But that could be before the early signing period in November. Stephane didn't rule out the late signing period in April 2014.

"It could happen at any time,'' he said.

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