When Southern Methodist University hired Larry Brown, it was a nice story of a legendary coach returning to the college ranks to be around the game he loves.
Brown at SMU? Oh, good for him for still coaching.
Brown is getting a different kind of pat on the back now.
The Mustangs, who you might want to call a basketball school here shortly, snagged the biggest commitment so far in the class of 2014 Saturday when point guard Emmanuel Mudiay announced during ESPNU's telecast of the Under Armour Elite 24 that he's heading to SMU.
Brown and the Mustangs, a program that has not played in the NCAA tournament since 1993, landed a guy who is a consensus top-five recruit. (Mudiay is ranked fifth by ESPN.com, third by Rivals.com and No. 1 by 247Sports.com.)
To get Mudiay, Brown had to beat out Kentucky, Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma State. Name the programs that can go toe-to-toe with Kentucky and Kansas and win. You can fit that list on a business card.
Brown is not just a feel-good story anymore, and SMU could be a national story in the month that matters in 2015.
Think that's crazy?
Michigan just went to the national championship game because of two recruiting classes. Wichita State made a Final Four with five new starters. Andy Enfield took a school no one had heard of to a Sweet 16 in his second year.
Brown had a nice head start on getting noticed because of who he is, but you don't win unless you have players. And now he has players.
It started when the old coach landed local product Keith Frazier, a McDonald's All-American, in April. Landing one McDonald's All-American turns some heads. Landing two creates fear.
In 2014-15, the Mustangs likely have a backcourt with two burger boys in Frazier and Mudiay. Brown will also have point guard Nic Moore, a transfer from Illinois State who followed coach-in-waiting Tim Jankovich. Brown told Andy Katz of ESPN.com last week that SMU would have won 25 games if Moore had been eligible.
SMU also added junior college big man Yanick Moreira, ranked as the second-best JUCO prospect by jucorecruiting.com, and transfers Crandall Head (from Illinois) and Markus Kennedy (from Villanova) will be eligible this year. Brown's 2013 recruiting class ranked as the 14th-best by Rivals. The next one will likely rank much higher.
It's still August, and Brown has one of the top recruits in the nation signing his praises, trying to get others to follow.
Half of the battle in recruiting is the brand of the school. Players want to go where they can get noticed and be on TV.
The Mustangs are suddenly in a great position because of Brown and their move to the American Athletic Conference. The new league has television contracts with both ESPN and CBS. You better believe the networks are going to want games with a Hall of Fame coach and one of the top NBA prospects in the country.
The league is also one in which it should not be difficult to climb the ladder quickly. With Louisville gone after this coming season, the AAC will have a good mix of programs with some national pizzazz—UConn, Memphis and Cincinnati—and a weak bottom-half that SMU's talent should be able to beat up on.
The Mustangs could even win enough games this year to flirt with a tournament berth. Add in Mudiay to a team that built confidence this coming season, and that will be a preseason top-25 team.
"We are going to be relevant," Brown told Katz.
That was a week ago. Who knew a week later every coach and basketball recruiting analyst in the country would agree. Brown can start to set his expectations a bit higher now.
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