It’s the family’s biggest regret.
Jean-Micheal Mudiay said he believes younger brother Emmanuel’s career would look differently had he attended SMU and learned under Larry Brown for a season instead of going to China to play professionally after high school.
“He’s on cloud nine right now,” Jean-Micheal told The Post in a phone interview from Dallas.
Jean-Micheal, who serves as Mudiay’s manager, played for Brown at SMU from 2013-2015 but never was as gifted as his 21-year-old brother.
“Had he played one year with Larry Brown, no doubt in my mind he would’ve been the No. 1 pick in the draft based on his talent,” said Jean-Micheal, who is 26. “He would’ve learned how to play the game of basketball. I know what he would’ve learned. After playing for Larry, I questioned every other coach I ever had in the past. I learned the actual game.
“So he didn’t have college basketball, didn’t get to play for Larry, and he’s been playing off athleticism his whole time.”
This isn’t meant as a knock on Nuggets coach Michael Malone, but now, Jean-Micheal said he senses Mudiay is in a place where the coaches and management believe in him. Mudiay was a starter his rookie year in Denver, then in and out of the rotation for parts of his second and third seasons.
“I think it’s going to be great for him,’’ Jean-Micheal said. “If he went to New York his rookie year, I don’t know how it would’ve went. I know he’s ready for it now. He’s excited to get the opportunity to play and feel wanted somewhere. I think he’s prepared for this stage. He puts in the work.
“The change of scenery will help him out a lot because he needed somebody who will believe in him and groom him to be the player he is going to be. But the adversity [in Denver] was good for him.”
It was surprising Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek rolled with Mudiay for 29 minutes in Sunday’s loss in Indiana after he had not practiced with the team. Mudiay seemed to tire toward the end after a whirlwind week and being unaccustomed to playing heavy minutes.
But he thrived, whipping some clever passes and snaking in for a couple of dunks and one circus shot that showed his body control. On a drive, Mudiay flipped the ball in the air as he crashed to the court. Hornacek raved afterward about Mudiay’s court sense and his chemistry with fellow point guard Frank Ntilikina.
“It’s his feel for the game,” Jean-Micheal said. “Court vision. He doesn’t get fed up. Nothing really gets to him, doesn’t get too high or low.”
The way Jean-Micheal tells it, Mudiay’s acceptance to SMU got held up by the NCAA because of accreditation issues with his troubled Dallas high school, Prime Prep Academy. By the time the NCAA cleared him, Jean-Micheal said his brother would have been ineligible for the first 17 games. The decision was made to play for Guangdong in China, where he hurt his ankle after just 10 contests.
“He did learn outside of basketball some life experiences from it, but not much as far as basketball goes,” Jean-Micheal said. “If he played all the games in China, he would’ve learned a lot more, but 10 games wasn’t enough.’’
Mudiay also had ankle issues his first two seasons in Denver, missing 14 games as a rookie. But Mudiay finished the last two months of his rookie campaign averaging 18 points and five assists and earned second-team All-Rookie honors.
In his second season, after going down with an ankle sprain, Mudiay returned and not only lost his starting job to veteran Jameer Nelson but found he was out of the rotation. The Nuggets now roll this season with Jamal Murray as starter — their 2016 lottery pick. The Nuggets had been shopping Mudiay since draft night in June.
“Him and Malone, I know they spoke often and had dialogue on what he needed to work on, like his shot selection,” Jean-Micheal said. “They didn’t have any rift. Malone did what he thought was best for the team. But I thought [Emmanuel] did work on his shot selection and different finishes at the rim.”
Jean-Micheal is headed to New York this week to find his brother a place in Westchester during the All-Star break, close to the Tarrytown practice site. It will be a far cry from Denver, where Mudiay owned a loft across the street from the Pepsi Center. He’ll gladly take the longer commute.
“It was time for a new start,” Jean-Micheal said.