Shabazz Muhammad fueled by critics
by Yannis Koutroupis, USA TODAY Sports
As the basketball world centers on the NBA draft prospects, nobody is more used to being in the spotlight than guard Shabazz Muhammad. Basketball has been more than a game for him since 2009, when he was named the nation’s No. 1 player in his class as a freshman.
At that point, Muhammad lost the luxury of being a normal kid. Great expectations were set, and he consistently met or exceeded them.
He led Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas to three 4A state championships. In his senior year, he was named the 2012 Naismith high school player of the year and was a McDonald’s All-American, along with just about every other honor a high school basketball player can earn.
If the NBA still allowed high school players to enter the draft, there would have been serious interest. But the NBA requires prospects to be one year removed from high school, so Muhammad went to UCLA, where many expected he would remain for only the one mandated season.
Muhammad, despite playing at a level superior to most players — regardless of class — in college basketball, didn’t live up to the incredible expectations as he did in high school. For the first time since he started being evaluated as a potential pro, he wasn’t better than everyone he was playing against.
As the draft approaches, Muhammad, who indeed played only one season at UCLA, is no longer looked at as the potential No. 1 pick as he was before the start of the season. Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Kansas’ Ben McLemore, UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Georgetown’s Otto Porter have emerged as more viable contenders for the top selection, and with good reason. They were the best in college basketball and have the potential to be great in the NBA.
“I want to go as high as I can. Everyone wants to go as high as you can, but the best fit is perfect,” he says. “If you get the best fit, it doesn’t really matter if you go high. You can look at the guys who have gone No. 3, some … [For more on Shabazz Muhammad fueled by critics as NBA draft nears, click here.]