CHICAGO – Media day at the McDonald’s All-American Game had a hint of Super Bowl-style questions and little new information regarding five of the nation’s top unsigned prospects. However, a significant nugget emerged from our discussion with Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman).
“I’m considering five but there are three that [stand out],” Muhammad said.
UCLA, Duke and Kentucky (in no order) are above Kansas and UNLV -- the others in his top five.
UNLV, the school coached by the brother of his high school coach, and Kansas are part of the second tier of programs, if you will, on his list. At this point, following a sit-down interview with the player who has been the star of the first two days of McDonald’s practice, it appears likely he’ll pick between the Bruins, Wildcats and Blue Devils.
Muhammad understands that the Blue Devils are all in regarding him and have been all year. His affinity for coach Mike Krzyzewski is apparent. Kentucky has emphasized, and rightfully so, its open door from Lexington to the NBA when it comes to elite players. Regarding UCLA, Muhammad freely admits that part of his game that needs altering is defense and he’s certain Ben Howland would be the guy to address that area.
Muhammad has few concerns regarding last month’s Sports Illustrated article on the Bruins, electing to view the piece as mainly through the lens of disgruntled former player Reeves Nelson.
There are two players who can legitimately alter the trajectory of a program: Muhammad is one and Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./Tilton School) is the other. Noel has Kentucky, Syracuse and Georgetown as his final three. By the middle of April, two of the country’s impact recruits will have made their choices.
On Tuesday, the picture for Muhammad became much clearer.