Shabazz Muhammad: NCAA’s Next Big Star
Sometimes, without even looking at an athlete or having any idea what he’s capable of on a court or playing field, you can just hear the name and know he’s destined for great things. LeBron James. Kobe Bryant. Shaquille O’Neal. Those players’ names are so unique and powerful that it would be hard to imagine them not becoming huge stars someday.
The same can be said about Las Vegas high school phenom Shabazz Muhammad, the clear star of this year’s McDonald’s All-American festivities in Chicago, and as Muhammad himself recognizes at the tender age of 18, standing out in a crowd of All-Americans usually means good things for the rest of a player’s career.
“Looking at the guys who have played in this game – LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins – I mean, you could just go on and on with the names. Those guys are legends in the NBA, and it just makes you more and more excited to be part of this game, knowing they’ve been in your shoes, that they’ve been here at one point,” Muhammad told HOOPSWORLD.
However, unlike last year, where the top prospects involved with the game already had chosen colleges, Muhammad is still undecided, with schools like Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, and his hometown program, UNLV, all vying for his services.
“Every time I walk around Vegas I’m hearing, ‘UNLV! UNLV! Bring UNLV back!’ And it’s a great program, a great situation over there,” Muhammad said, “It’s so hard, especially coming up on these last two days where everybody’s coming up to me like, ‘Go to this school,’ or, “Go to this school;’ It’s really hectic. I’m really stressed out about the decision right now, but hopefully I’ll make the best one eventually for me and my family.”
Where ever he ends up, the experience will undoubtedly be an exciting one. What senior in high school wouldn’t be completely stoked about moving out of his parent’s house and hitting a big time college campus somewhere?
“I can’t wait for college next year,” he said, a huge grin on his face. “I know it’s going to be really hard, and I know they’re going to push me as a player, but I hope I can get better there and really learn a lot about the game of basketball.”
That education, according to Muhammad, involves developing the same set of skills that many superstar NBA swingmen are using. There’s a terrific chance that in about fifteen months, this young man is the top overall pick in the 2013 draft, so he’ll have to mature his game quickly if he hopes to play on a high professional level in just over a year’s time.
“I’ve been watching tapes of guys in the league – Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade – those guys who are really skilled with the ball, pump-faking and all that stuff, because I know at the next level everybody is just as athletic as you, just as tall as you, just as fast as you. If you can get those skill set moves, it’s a great thing for your game.”
Of course, also great for your game is a full 6’6” frame and the sort of freaky athleticism that really only comes around once every few years. Combined with his overwhelming offensive ability, NBA frame and obvious charisma, he seems destined for very big things.
The kid’s name doesn’t hurt anything, either.
“The name my parents gave me is a really good name,” Muhammad admitted, laughing when asked about it, “So hopefully I can do something with it.”