Shabazz Muhammad is a name that will be at the forefront of high school basketball the next two years, as the soon to be junior from Las Vegas, and in the running for the top spot in the 2012 class, has every major program in the country calling. The 6’5 wing has an all around game that has sparked interest and offers from the heavyweights of the college basketball world. UNC, Duke, UCLA, Arizona, Georgetown, Memphis, USC, Kansas, Louisville, Washington and several more are involved with Shabazz. His advanced game led Bishop Gorman to a state title this year in which he posted over 20 points and 10 rebounds a game after overcoming an ankle injury early on. He has not slowed down this spring, bursting back onto the AAU circuit with a strong showing with his AAU team, Dream Vision at the Jayhawk Invitational and can be seen on the summer circuit later on at The Adidas It Takes 5 tournament and the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions among others.
Shabazz outlines his strengths that make it clear why he’s become such a valuable prospect, “My all around skill set, and IQ for the game. I try to play all positions, the 1, 2 and 3.” Shabazz stated he admires Carmelo Anthony’s game, specifically in the mid range, and also hears, “People say I play like James Harden, and kind of like O.J. Mayo”. Shabazz will prefer playing on the wing but would not shy away from possible part time point guard duties at the next level, but pointed out that improving moving without the ball is something he has to improve on. Upon speaking with Shabazz, it is quickly evident that he has a well grounded and high character personality to go with an All American game. While he has yet to decide what he may want to study in the class room when he hits college, excelling in the class room as well as on the court will come naturally.
For Shabazz’s now highly publicized recruitment, he quickly pointed out one school that is showing a great deal of attention, “The school that is recruiting me the hardest right now is Memphis. They’re calling pretty much everyday.” Shabazz is looking to take a visit out to Memphis sometime soon. Coach Josh Pastner has become a force on the recruiting trail and Shabazz will be making notes of how his three blue chip incoming freshmen guards (Joe Jackson, Will Barton and Jelan Kendrick) play this year, “I’ll definitely be watching Memphis and how their guards play.” Shabazz pointed out that will be something he plans on doing with all the schools recruiting him. “Everyone is pretty much equal and I’ll be watching how they all play and then start to think about a decision.”
Besides Josh Pastner, Shabazz stated he has formed solid relationships with; Roy Williams, Bill Self, Ben Howland, Lon Kruger, Sean Miller and Kevin O’Neill. With a struggling Pac 10 currently, I asked if the recent competitiveness and the profile of the conference might have an effect on the interest in schools such as UCLA, Arizona and USC. “It does, but at the same time it really doesn’t. I’m most interested in the individual school.” Shabazz maintained that train of thought with the idea of playing in a conference such as the Mountain West or Conference USA. Putting Las Vegas on the map basketball wise has been a goal Shabazz is setting out to accomplish, “When people think of Las Vegas, they don’t really think of good basketball, so I’ll try to put it (back) on the map.” Shabazz noted his father has a good relationship with UNLV coach Lon Kruger and are in constant contact. Shabazz has allowed his father to handle most of his recruitment so far allowing himself to focus on his game. Shabazz’s father plays a large role in his recruiting and also his training. “My dad pretty much trains me, we try to get a lot of shots up, and just get my skill set better.”
Of other recruiting note, Shabazz pointed out Georgetown along with Memphis for schools turning up their attention, with contact from head coach John Thompson III and assistant coach David Cox. Shabazz touched on Arizona briefly as well, “I like Sean Miller a lot and we have a good relationship. I think he’s done a good job with that program so far and I’d hope to take a visit out there soon.” As for visits, Shabazz has been to UNC, Duke, UCLA, Kansas and USC, and for now no dates are scheduled for his future visits to other schools. Shabazz went onto say he grew up a UNC and USC fan. With such a wide variety of schools showing interest, Shabazz says he has now been accustomed to all parts of the country through AAU ball and would be open to playing anywhere; location is not much of a factor. With a rapidly developing game and big time talent, it’s quite possible Shabazz’s college stay is a short one, but that is not something he’s given much thought to even with the changing landscape of college basketball, “The one and done rule, I think it’s necessary for a lot of guys. I’m just going to go to college and take the opportunity and go from there.” A time table for a school list to be cut or a future decision to be made has not been created as Shabazz and his father are, “Just trying to take our time, and just make sure I end up at the right college.”