Muhammad knows how to work on his weaknesses, how to win

by | CBSSports.com
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Shabazz Muhammad is quick to admit his limitations. (Photo by Larry Lawson)  
Shabazz Muhammad is quick to admit his limitations. (Photo by Larry Lawson)    
Shabazz Muhammad
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 220 lbs.
High School: Bishop Gorman (Nev.)
AAU team: Dream Vision
Position: Small forward
Comparison: James Harden

Why he's No. 1: Outstanding lefty scorer, great when driving to the rim. Unstoppable in the mid-range and with pull-up jumper. Very good athleticism.

Why he's not No. 1: Perimeter shooting is inconsistent, and is not as effective going to his right. Ball-handling also needs some work, as he aspires to be a shooting guard.

What kind of pro: Will have to improve dexterity and outside jumper, but he has a long NBA career ahead of him.

Recruiting: UCLA, Kentucky, Duke, UNLV, Memphis, Kansas, Arizona, Texas.

Shabazz Muhammad has weaknesses in his game he openly admits to -- an uncommon trait for a top-flight player. But Muhammad also thinks he can eliminate a lot of his flaws in July, when he tours the AAU circuit.

A player genuinely improving his craft in the meat-grinder month of recruiting? Surely he jests.

Only Muhammad is serious. So, to get better, one of the best players in the 2012 class is going to eliminate the balance in his life, if only for the next month. Muhammad's perfectly comfortable taking the next five weeks full-on, thoroughly ensconcing himself in his game on the court and his drive in the weight room, hoping his reputation and stock rise even higher. It's a tall order considering he's already considered a prospect that will have long-term viability -- in the NBA.

"I will keep working out and working on my weaknesses for all of July," he said, then specifying why. "I want to transfer to the '2' position. I was a 3 last year, but I want to be bringing the ball up [the court] more. I want to be a guard."

He then added a sentence that's rarely connoted with AAU basketball.

More on Recruiting

"But it's also important to me that I win games," he said. "Most people say AAU isn't good and stuff like that. I think it's great competition, and if you lock down on the defensive end, you can improve your [value] a lot."

That attitude is not one that pervades AAU ball. By now, plenty of veterans in the recruiting world reading this piece are probably out of breath from all the coughing induced by Muhammad's quotes. But things have changed quite a bit for Muhammad in the past two months. He's most proud of the fact he's put on almost 20 pounds of muscle and significantly improved his work ethic in the weight room. That's something coaches salivate over, especially considering he averaged 25.1 points and 7.7 rebounds last year. The 6-foot-6 hybrid player also said that time in the weight room has further enhanced his explosiveness on the floor.

Like most other elite 2012 recruits, Muhammad hasn't committed to a program. When pressed for a top-five or top-eight list, Nevada's 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year wouldn't budge. (It must be noted that his father, Ron Holmes, is friends with Kansas assistant Kurt Townsend; there is no sign that Muhammad is favoring the Jayhawks right now, though.) Muhammad has taken a number of unofficial visits, which he shared with CBSSports.com in a phone interview Wednesday night. He has hit up Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Arizona, UCLA and Kansas so far, with more to come in the future.

"My list is very open right now," he said.

Muhammad's very self-aware; that's continually evident. He knows his game will be closely inspected in the July recruiting period, a time when coaches are unleashed on prospects like eager, early-morning Black Friday enthusiasts. The coaches want to impress and lure him, but he seems more focused on being a driven, honorable individual, the type of player that would be worthy of playing for Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Bill Self, Ben Howland or others.

"It's pretty hectic," Muhammad said of his life with regard to recruiting right now. Coaches had the door unlocked earlier this month, meaning they were allowed to contact 2012 recruits over the phone, by Facebook, etc. for the first time. It's akin to a dam giving way to the undeniable force of the waters. "A lot of coaches are writing in my [Facebook] messages and that kind of stuff. I get a lot of calls from a lot of coaches. It's pretty overwhelming once in a while, but it's good that they're interested."

Muhammad said he's not entirely overwhelmed at this point -- which is often the most suffocating period for a high school player in the course of his recruitment -- because he's surrounded by people familiar with the game, more familiar than most. His father played at USC. His AAU coach, Clayton Williams, has known Muhammad's dad for more than 15 years. He said he talks with his father all the time about recruitment. It's like a stock they watch; what's high, what's low.

Muhammad made the process seem tempered but serious. And then there's the fact that Muhammad's sister is a professional tennis player on the WTA Tour. So there's a sense of calm and control with this process for Muhammad. That's allowing him to truly focus on his game and carefully align his suitors.

When he picks his school, he's not going to double back. Few players in this 2012 class are as prepared and balanced for the collective experience of basketball growth as Muhammad. It's why he's been chased by the best schools in the business for three years now, and likely why they're going to have to wait a good while longer for him to choose which school is best for his carefully crafted future.

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