Tag Archives: Shabazz Muhammad interview

Shabazz Muhammad Interview – “Im looking forward to going down there again”

Bazz throws on down in Wilson Rec Center - BDN Photo

One of the nations most coveted recruiting prospects, Shabazz Muhammad, is currently in the midst of his high school teams playoff run.  Muhammad is one of the Blue Devils top priorities in the class of 2012 but to gain his services they must contend with Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA for his services.

Muhammad can play above the rim and his athleticism blended with his understanding of the game makes him a prize catch.  The question is where will he play his collegiate career?

Blue Devil Nation Premium spoke with Muhammad about his season and the recruiting process gaining the latest news on the front in this in depth interview.

I hope all has been well for you of late and that you are having success as your high school basketball season is winding down.

Everything is going great.  The playoffs are going really good.  We've played three games and beat everybody by a very good amount, so everything is going great and we are really comfortable moving forward in the playoffs. The teams we've played are the ones we'll see in the finals, so we are taking care of business there.

The last time we talked you had a fairly long list of schools.  Has it changed any since that time?

It's pretty much the same.  I don't have any order or a top three or five, just a lot of schools currently in the mix.

Let me see if I get this right ... Texas, UCLA Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina? [private]

Uh, UNLV and UCLA.

I understand that UCLA has been making a big push at you of late, is that true?

Yes, they have been.  I really like them.  Coach Howland is a great coach, he has coached a lot of good players and has done a good job.  I always watch them on TV and follow them from home and that's really a program I look at.

What about Duke?

Yeah, I've been talking to Coach K.  I talked with him last week.  He's a very prestigious coach as everybody knows.  He just loves his players up and down.  He's a great coach and I talked to their assistants -- Coach Wojo, he's a great guy and he helped with USA so he had a lot of experience training those guys and it's a great atmosphere there and I'm looking forward to going down there again.

When you say going down there again, when might you visit?

No visit planned yet, but they'll probably be one soon planned for Duke.

What about Kentucky?  The last time we talked you said you haven't visited yet.  Is that still the case?

No I haven't been yet but I really want to get down there.  We really want to visit but haven't found the time yet, so I want to go down there.  The dribble drive offense is pretty  much at your hand, so you can make a lot of decisions.  I think it's a very good program and they allow a lot of freedom.  Calipari is a very good coach, he's a players coach.

What about North Carolina?

I watched them yesterday [UNC-Boston College game] and Williams is a good coach.  They've got some good coaches with a lot of experience.  I talk to a lot of the players and get feedback from them and they really enjoy themselves at Chapel Hill, so it is a good opportunity for me to be recruited by them and all these schools.

You're Phenomballa on twitter and social networking is a big thing these days.  Do you strike up friendships with players at other schools?

Oh yeah.  I have a lot of friends with the guys in college.  Like with Duke, Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving.  North Carolina?  John Henson, Kendall Marshall, Reggie Bullock and Harrison Barnes ... a lot of guys.  I want to get to know some of the players because those guys are there and I can get feedback on the school.

Any changes in the key factors with concern to your impending decision?

First look at the style of play, then my relationship with the coach and how my parents feel about me going there.  I will just look at a school, concentrate and make the right choice for me.

Now, you have a little brother who is a pretty good baller himself.  What kind of advice do you give him?

I do give him advice.  He is kind of struggling on the varsity level, so I give him a lot of advice and he eats it up, so at the end of the day he's going to be fine.

You told me one time that you decision could come down to the gun or final lap if you will.  Has that changed?  Will you take you five official visits or ...

I will make a decision when I feel comfortable.  I just want to make the right choice, not too early in order to make the right choice for me and my family.

Do players have something to do with the decision?  Do you  look at the rosters and at who is coming in,  is there and or who is leaving?

Of course, I want to play with really good players, so I look at that.  I want to win a national championship wherever I go, sot that's what that is.

Shabazz, suppose a person came along and they had never seen you play.  How would you describe your game in your own words?

I  play inside and out.  I shoot the mid range jumper, go to the hole, slash and I'll try to dunk on you.  I'm always by the rim, get a lot of offensive and defensive rebounds and try to be a match up issue for my opponent.

When did you first learn that you had mad basketball skills and when did you know basketball would become a huge part of your life?

Probably in my ninth grad year in the summer.  I just really started to improve my game and I was growing a lot getting stronger, so that's when I knew.

I see where ESPN currently has you ranked number one at your position and five overall.  Is that something you pay attention to and if so are you the kind of guy that says at the end of it all I want to top those lists?

Absolutely.  They always have those big guys ahead of the guards.  But when it comes time to go to the NBA, some of those big guys are always a bust, but those guards always end up as guys playing years in the league and that gives me motivation and I'll work to be number one.

Of the schools you've visited thus far, which one has been the most impressive?

Um. [pause] Probably Duke and the atmosphere there which made you really want to be in the game and playing.

Have you seen game with UCLA, North Carolina and such?

I've been to UNC, but haven't been to Texas yet.  I really like UNC's arena too, it's a very big atmosphere.  When I went ot late night with Roy, it was a really good experience and I enjoyed myself a lot.

Describe yourself as a person?

Very talkative guy, funny, I can take things seriously and then mess around, left handed, love to play basketball, play X-Box, and hang out with friends.

What is in your game console right now?

Call of Duty, that's pretty much all I play.  I sometimes play on line with other prospects and players.

That would be pretty cool to watch.  Thanks for your time Shabazz, and best of luck in the playoffs.

Okay, no problem.  Thank you.

We approached Shabazz as Sports Nation and not Blue Devil Nation to get untainted answers.  I now feel it is clear that this one could go on for a good while, but he did say he'd pull the trigger if he got that feel.  It is also clear that there are four players in this, being Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA.  Shabazz seems to like large arenas and he has yet to visit Kentucky for a game but if he does, they are impressive up that way.  Discuss this interview on the BDN Premium message board.  If you are a premium member and not yet on the message board, contact us under FAQ on the main page. [/private]

In Depth Interview with Shabazz Muhammad “Coach K lets you have freedom”

SPRINGFIELD, MA - Shabazz Muhammad is a physicaly gifted, 6'6" left-handed junior guard from Las Vegas' Bishop Gorman HS, where he has led the Gaels to back-to-back Nevada State Championships. Yesterday, he faced his toughest competition of the season in Springfield, Massachusetts at the tenth annual Hoop Hall Classic, as he squared off against 6'7" small forward Mike Gilchrist, a future Kentucky Wildcat, and the St. Patrick's Celtics of New Jersey.

Muhammad faced constant ball pressure from 6'3" Dexter Gordon, a very promising Western Kentucky signee, with nearly automatic double-teams every time he touched the ball from the Celtics. Shabazz struggled in the first half (2 for 7 shooting) against their pressure and three quick fouls helped limit him to an abnormally low five points in the first half, but halftime adjustments, including refocusing his mind, utilizing his size and strength advantage over their respective guards, and inflicting his athleticism and aggression on their decision to guard him closely, caused the southpaw to erupt for twenty-three second half points and ignite a Gaels comeback that ultimately was too late. The New Jersey Catholic school team, this year's likely mythical national champion, prevailed 79-63 in front of a national audience on ESPNU and a packed crowd at the birthplace of basketball.

Following the game, Shabazz spoke with Blue Devil Nation about his game against St. Patrick's, what he's looking for in a college program, his immediate impressions from Saturday's trip to Duke University for their game against Virginia, Quinn Cook, and why three schools stand out right now to him.

Let's start off with tonight's matchup with Saint Patrick's. Can you talk about the game in general and the defenses that they threw at you?

Sure, well, first of all, obviously, we played a great team in St. Pat's.

Is this the best team you've seen so far this year?

Yes, definitely, this is the best and I'd have to say by far too. As good an intensity as Saint Pat's brought to the game, we tried to match it and, at first, we just didn't. In the first half, they just beat us on the boards and outmatched us. We've just got to get back to work quickly. We can't accept that.

What second-half adjustments did you make personally? It seemed as though you were far more aggressive against their pressure after the half and you played with, well, more poised aggression. What, if anything, did you see differently?

Yeah, in the first half, I was just kind of pressing, but then I tried to slow the game down in the second half mentally. I tried to wait out my options in the second half and also get my teammates more involved.

Can you talk about the recent visits you've taken?

Yeah, I just took a visit to Duke. It was a nice experience for me, you know[private], talking to Coach K and going into Cameron Indoor.

And have you dealt with UCLA recently as well?

Yeah, I've just been talking with Ben Howland and those guys.

And at Duke you were talking with Coach K primarily?

Well, I was talking with Coach K and Coach Wojo. It was a great time for me there.

What was it like facing off against Mike Gilchrist today?

Oh, it was great going against Mike. He's a tremendous player. He's number one in the country as you saw out there tonight. He's doing really good and he just plays hard all the time. I tried to match his intensity and, you know, he's going to be a great player.

Were you incredibly frustrated with being foul trouble early on? You picked up your third on that drive to the left baseline.

Absolutely, when you're in foul trouble, you have to be frustrated. I just had to get my mind together and then focus clearly in the second half.

Shabazz Muhammad

You started driving a lot more in the second half. Was that to build a comfort level?

Oh, yeah, because in the first half they were kind of pressing up on me. So, in the second half, I just went right at it and took them to the basket. When they changed, I weighed my options and saw what I had to work with.

What do you think you've improved on most since August?

I think it's been my jump shot. I've been really working on that.

Still at Impact Academy?

I haven't been there in awhile, but I plan on going back there this summer to get working.

What did you see Dexter Gordon trying to do to you?

I think he was just trying to press up on me in the first half and go after my handle. In the second half, I just decided I'm going to have to blow past him. I was trying to dribble too much, I think, in the first half. You can't dribble when somebody is pressing up on you. I think I made the right adjustments.

You then tried to take him and Chris Martin (son of former Georgetown Hoya, Bill Martin) down low in the second half as well and get fed on the low left box.

Oh, yeah, that's the good thing about being a 6'6" guard. Other guards are shorter and, so, you can take them inside and really use it against them. Then, if they're around my size, you can take them outside and also use your strength.

How has it been to play with Rashad this year?

Oh, yeah, my brother, well, he's doing really good this year. He's trying to get it together. This was a very hard game for him obviously, but I think he's getting it together.

How did you plan to go after or play Michael Gilchrist.

Well, we all really watched him. We had tape on him and so we all tried to watch him so that we'd be okay with different match-ups. He's just a great player.

When you come to a tournament or showcase like this or City of Palms, do you consciously enter the game or event with a different mentality than a regular season matchup against a league opponent? If so, what do you do differently?

Oh, yeah, absolutely, these guys are way, way better than the guys we usually play back in Nevada so we've got to make that big adjustment. We've got to play intensely right from the start.

In terms of the pre-game at here or the City of Palms, how are you preparing yourself? Watching those guys? Psyching yourself up? Focusing your energy?

Absolutely, we were watching them, but you've got to just focus and go from there.

Now, next week, you'll be matching up with Findlay.

Yen, they're obviously a great team too and I'm going to go watch them and we'll be practicing hard for them this week.

You clearly know Winston (Sheppard) very well. He's one of your best friends and an AAU teammate.

Oh, yeah, I know Winston (laughs) and all those guys very well. It's going to be a great game for us to play in and show that we've improved and for folks to come out and watch.

Was Gilchrist the toughest defender you've faced and, if so, what makes him such a tough defender?

Oh, yeah, he is. I think it's that he just plays each play so hard. He never relents or takes a possession off. His intensity and, I think, his effort or work ethic out there is the difference. He never stops or relents. Other guys do or they burn out quicker.

Evan Daniels: Was that your first game on television?

No, well, it was my first high school game on TV, but I played in that Elite 24 game on TV. I wasn't nervous. I think I just needed to make the adjustments earlier.

ED: How is the recruiting process going?

It's going good. I just visited Duke. Coach K is always a great guy. Talking to Coach Wojo and even talking to some of the players, guys like Kyrie and Nolan. Just talking with all of those guys was a great experience for me.

ED: Was that your first time to Duke?

No, it was my second time.

It seems like you're taking a lot of visits lately. Are there any other ones to know?

I've got one to Kentucky set up. The whole thing with the visits is that I want to make sure I'm making the right choice when it comes down to it.

How close are you, I'm sorry, to a decision?

Probably next year, but you know probably whenever the time feels right, that's when I'll make the decision.

ED: I know you said you had a top three of Duke and who were the other ones?

Oh, Duke, UCLA, and Kentucky, but I didn't mean to say "top three" necessarily. It's just that those three are standing out the most to me right now. They're the ones that are staying in the most contact and pursuing me the hardest right now. That's what I meant. I'll stick with that. The North Carolinas and Louisvilles are definitely not out of it.

What have those three done differently? Are they just on you harder?

I think that's so. That's fair. Just calling and constantly monitoring and checking in with me and my dad. I appreciate it a lot and they're very good about communicating with us.

ED: Now, what about visiting Louisville? I know at one point you were supposed to.

Oh, I already did actually.

ED: What about Carolina? Talk to me about those guys. What do you like about them?

Roy Williams is a great guy and a good coach. Talking to their players, getting feedback on how to play the game. It was a great experience.

ED: Do you see yourself taking another trip back there?

Probably, yeah, I think I am. I mean I've taken two visits there and you can never take too many visits. I'm just trying to do the best I can. I don't have any dates yet. But I'll just have to decide with my dad.

ED: What's keeping them from being in the top three level?

I just think a little bit of communication issues. I'm talking to them, but, with those other three schools, I'm hearing from them all of the time. They're definitely not out though. It's just..

What'll be some of the primary factors in your decision?

The primary factors in my decision? Not location, but just where I fit in and I'll talk to the coaches and the style of play will be a big factor in my decision.

What about the desire to play with other players you feel comfortable with? Does it matter to you? People talk about it all the time, but sometimes it's not a big deal.

Oh, yeah, absolutely. You want to play with other great players or at least guys that care about winning.

Are there any particular players, either in your class or older than you that appeal to you, or that you've thought about playing with?

Well, I mean I've talked to Kyrie and those guys and then today I talked with Mike out on the court.

Yeah, I noticed that.

(Laughing) Yeah, that's my boy, but I'm just talking to guys because I want to play for and win a National Championship. That's what it's about. That's why and what you work for.

So, it's fair to say, winning is very important to you?

Oh, yeah, absolutely.

I just wanted to make absolutely certain that you were quoted correctly about the three schools that were after you hardest. He didn't misquote you or anything? Not Evan, but the other guy, um, Jason.

Yeah, yeah, no, he quoted me correctly, but those are not just the top three. He just wanted to know who was after me hardest.

Yeah, I just wanted to make that absolutely clear with you that you weren't misquoted. Thanks. I happened to speak with Quinn Cook the other day after his game and he said that he was recruiting three guys: you, Alex Murphy, and Tony Parker.

Oh, yeah, Quinn and I talk. He's a great player.

He's a very nice kid too.

Oh, yeah, he is and, as a player, he gets his teammates involved. He's a true point guard. I like him and I like to play with him. We played out at the Boost Mobile 24 game and Adidas Nations. He's a fun guy to be with.

If you could just touch on your trip to Duke a little bit more and what Kyrie and Nolan were talking to you about?

Oh, sure, they were just talking with me about how Coach K lets you have freedom and they were absolutely correct. I was watching it with my own two eyes and they were absolutely correct. They let Nolan have the ball and, since his guy wasn't pressuring him, he just let him take it to him at will. He lets his stars play and, when they make mistakes, he says keep playing and so I mean I like that about them. He's a really good basketball coach and he's a really dedicated coach and he wants to win a lot.

One last thing, is Gilchrist the hardest player you've faced so far?

Yeah, he is because he's got size and now skill combined with amazing intensity. He's going to be a great player for Kentucky and do very well down there.

He'll fit in well in their dribble-drive offense. Thanks a lot for your time, Shabazz.

Oh, yeah, of course, absolutely. Anytime. [/private]