Emmanuel Mudiay excited for chance to win with Utah Jazz

New Utah Jazz player Emmanuel Mudiay smiles as he answers a question at a press conference at the Zions Bank practice facility in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
New Utah Jazz player Emmanuel Mudiay is greeted by Jazz employees prior to a press conference at the Zions Bank practice facility in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
New Utah Jazz player Emmanuel Mudiay holds up his jersey after a press conference at the Zions Bank practice facility in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
New Utah Jazz player Emmanuel Mudiay holds up his jersey after a press conference at the Zions Bank practice facility in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
New Utah Jazz player Emmanuel Mudiay answers questions at a press conference at the Zions Bank practice facility in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
New Utah Jazz player Emmanuel Mudiay answers questions at a press conference at the Zions Bank practice facility in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
New Utah Jazz player Emmanuel Mudiay answers questions at a press conference at the Zions Bank practice facility in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
New Utah Jazz player Emmanuel Mudiay answers questions at a press conference at the Zions Bank practice facility in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
New Utah Jazz player Emmanuel Mudiay answers questions at a press conference at the Zions Bank practice facility in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
New Utah Jazz player Emmanuel Mudiay answers questions at a press conference at the Zions Bank practice facility in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
New Utah Jazz player Emmanuel Mudiay answers questions at a press conference at the Zions Bank practice facility in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Last season, Emmanuel Mudiay averaged a career-high 14.8 points for the New York Knicks as they went an NBA-worst 17-65.

While the fourth-year guard and former top 10 draft pick had more personal success than he'd had to that point in his career, it marked the fourth straight time a team he was on missed the playoffs.

When the chance came this summer to join the Utah Jazz for his fifth season, Mudiay was all over it, even if it'll mean taking a backseat to a number of players on his new team, most notably starting guards Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell.

"I'm so happy that I'm going to be on a team that is a winning team, is a playoff team," he said Tuesday afternoon during an introductory press conference at Zions Bank Basketball Campus, an idea he repeated numerous times in various ways over the course of 10 minutes.

A native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mudiay was a high school phenom in Texas and was planning on playing collegiately at SMU for legendary coach Larry Brown before opting to instead begin his professional career in China and getting drafted seventh overall in 2015 by the Denver Nuggets after one injury-plagued season.

He's kept a close relationship with Brown, however, who told him of Jazz head coach Quin Snyder's intellect in a variety of areas (Brown would be familiar, as his daughter and Snyder were once married). As Mudiay has gotten to know his new coach, he's learned for himself that Brown is right. More than that, though, Mudiay has been impressed with Snyder's passion for basketball and coaching.

"When I talk to him, you can tell how much this really, really means to him, just basketball in general," Mudiay said. "It seems like he really cares for his players as well. I think that's big when you've got a coach that can talk to you not only about basketball, but just off-the-court stuff. You start having trust in that person as well. That's one thing with me — if I've got trust in you, then I'll run through a wall for you."

Mudiay is also keenly aware of the success Utah has had in developing players, with Snyder leading the way. At 23-years-old, the 6-foot-5 Mudiay is eager to get in the program, as he hasn't lived up to the lottery pick hype.

“I think that’s big when you’ve got a coach that can talk to you not only about basketball, but just off-the-court stuff. You start having trust in that person as well.”

New Jazz guard Emmanuel Mudiay on Quin Snyder

"I'm surrounded by great people," he said. "I'm surrounded by people that know the game, people that have had success in this league, from coaches to players. I'm just out here being a sponge trying to soak everything in."

One player who Mudiay has already started to get to know is Conley, as he posted a picture on Instagram two weeks ago of the two of them at a gym in Las Vegas during NBA Summer League.

"That's somebody I have a lot of respect for," Mudiay said. "Obviously I'm going to look at him now like as a big brother and he can mentor me in a lot of stuff. He's a great leader, and I think when he starts talking about the team more than himself, that's always a positive thing and if the leader of a team is like that, then everybody's gonna follow and make it about a team aspect, and I'm the same way."

For Mudiay, his hope is that the team coming together will allow him to not only reach the postseason for the first time, but advance in it.

"If you look at the team, it's definitely a great place to come to if you're trying to win," he said. "The way it's trending, the way it's going, it's definitely becoming a winning program. I think everybody's trying to get back to the days when Stockton and Malone were here and they were winning a lot of games, so I think it's going into the right direction for sure."

Emmanuel Mudiay excited for chance to win with Utah Jazz