Muhammad sets tone at West practice

CHICAGO -- The McDonald’s All-American practices are frequently more valuable than the game itself, especially from an evaluation standpoint. Truthfully, “evaluating” is a term that’s tough to toss around when it comes to all-star games but every now and then a whiff of competitive juices can be spotted in these practices.

On Monday, there was competition from the West side of the gymnasium. My day began with the East but after 30 minutes of watching guys at half speed, like many of the NBA scouts in attendance, I slid over to watch the West team. It proved to be a solid move.

The West got after it and they did so because the best player in the building set the tone. Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) is the game’s best talent. On Monday, he was also amongst – if not – the hardest-playing guys in the gym. All of his finishes were dunks. His shots were crisp and his attention and effort were equally dialed in. As we figured going in, he was the guy. All he did was prove it to a bigger audience.

To the kids who might be reading this blog: give me your attention to this paragraph. When there are upwards of four dozen NBA types, including some front office brass in attendance, you go hard. You listen to your coaches and even if you aren’t impressed, you fake it and go hard. If your teammates don’t want to go hard, you go hard anyway. If you're tired, go hard and sleep later. You talk all the time about making it to the league. Well, hello. The NBA scouts in the gym are here for a reason. The first chapter in your evaluation was written today. If you’re Shabazz Muhammad, it was a good read. It’s great to be cool. It’s not great to act too cool to go hard. Frankly, that’s why myself and a bunch of NBA guys switched from the East to the West.

I thought the entire West team as a group looked good. Some better than others, but overall a complete effort. Here’s the quick hitters:

  • Anthony Bennett (Canada/Findlay Prep) has “it.” By that I mean he owns an Adonis-type frame, has NBA size, a skill package and he’s explosive. The boys who write the checks and draft the players made a big circle around his name.