The Pac-12 Buzz About Shabazz MuhammadPosted by AMurawa on November 1st, 2011
We talked yesterday about Arizona landing a real big fish when center Kaleb Tarczewski announced his commitment to Sean Miller and the Wildcats. But there is still one other huge target out there with a number of Pac-12 schools among the favorites. Shabazz Muhammad, a 6’6” small forward from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, is the consensus #1 recruit in the 2012 class. A left-handed scorer from the wing, capable both in the mid-range game and attacking the basket, Muhammad has attracted attention from coaches from all over the country, and has been playing the field so far, keeping his options wide open. Earlier in the year, he had listed nine schools among those still in contention for his services, with three Pac-12 schools ostensibly on the radar: Arizona, UCLA and USC.
Among many recruiting analysts, UCLA has been seen as a slight favorite (with Kentucky and Duke hot in pursuit), but Muhammad himself has played it close to the vest, refusing to name a favorite. UCLA has been encouraged by the fact that 2012 commitment Jordan Adams is friends with Muhammad and has been giving head coach Ben Howland a helping hand in encouraging his buddy to join him in Westwood. And when Kyle Anderson, another top five 2012 recruit, committed to UCLA in September, speculated was rampant that Anderson’s friendship with Muhammad may also sway the top recruit into becoming a Bruin. However, Muhammad’s father, Ron Holmes, a former USC basketball player who has not been shy about giving his opinion on his son’s recruitment, claimed that neither of those events would necessarily influence his son’s decision.
In early October, Muhammad posted in an online diary for SLAM Magazine that he had trimmed his list to seven teams: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, Texas A&M, UCLA and UNLV. A few days later, Muhammad made an official visit to Kentucky for its Midnight Madness event, and came away “intrigued,” according to Holmes. He has also made an official visit to Texas A&M, and remained noncommittal after both weekends.
All of this brings us to this past weekend when Muhammad, his dad, and younger brother, Rashad, spent the weekend at USC on an unofficial visit. The family took in the triple-overtime football thriller between the Trojans and Stanford, as well as a basketball luncheon at the Galen Center on Sunday. And, according to his dad, Muhammad “really enjoyed himself.” Certainly, dad doesn’t hide his partisanship for the Trojans, admitting that “Shabazz was raised a Trojan,” but the simple fact that just three weeks ago, USC wasn’t even on Muhammad’s list implies one of two things: Either Trojan fans need to be excited that they’re at least back in the race again or that dad is trying really hard to convince his son, and maybe himself, that his alma mater should be in the race.
As for Arizona, it appears that the Wildcats are now out of the race. In what was always an on-again, off-again courtship, Arizona was among the first schools to offer Muhammad but they apparently cooled on him when they thought they didn’t have a good shot at landing him. Considering all the other success they’ve had recruiting this year’s class, that probably turned out to be a good decision. Looking at Muhammad’s latest list, Arizona is nowhere on it, and with all the talent now lined up to play in Tucson, it appears unlikely that he’ll wind up there (although at last count UA does still have one available scholarship).
Back at UCLA, which still likely remains the favorite, the addition of Muhammad would be a huge get for Howland especially in conjunction with Anderson. While that duo would probably not be enough to push the Bruins ahead of Arizona in the 2012 rankings, it would create an impressive cast for the 2012-13 season, making the pick between the two schools for conference favorite a toss-up. The potential starting lineup for UCLA in that situation could be a massive five, with Josh Smith, Reeves Nelson, Muhammad, Anderson and a fifth (perhaps Larry Drew, II, running the point in name only), with the Wear twins, Norman Powell, Tyler Lamb and Adams (among others) providing depth. If and when we get to that point, we’ve got all the makings of an epic Pac-12 battle for supremacy back in place.