Can Kentucky go above the rim to land Shabazz Muhammad?
William Gunter of Cats Pause/247 Sports recently caught up with 2012 uber-prospect Shabazz Muhammad at the Beach Ball Classic, and unearthed some interesting nuggets of information ($). Muhammad stated that he has officially trimmed his list to six schools: UCLA, UNLV, Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, and Kansas.
Per Muhammad, the first four schools listed (UCLA, UNLV, Kentucky, and Duke) have been the most persistent recruiters. This past fall, Muhammad took official visits to Kentucky (for Big Blue Madness) and Texas A&M (since eliminated). That leaves him with three official visits remaining, and he told Gunter that "I know Duke will get a visit." The Las Vegas native has also been to nearby schools UCLA and UNLV multiple times, and being intimately familiar with their programs, would not need to take an official visit to either school prior to picking one.
UCLA has long been considered his unofficial leader, but the Bruins' struggles this season have cast doubt on that hypothesis. Muhammad's quote regarding UCLA did nothing to disquiet the now prevailing thought that UCLA's abhorrent play has affected his recruitment. In the article, Shabazz said: "They are still a great school and Coach Howland is a great guy and good coach so I am definitely not giving up on them or anything." I daresay that on the off chance UCLA ends up firing Howland, its chances with Muhammad go up in smoke. Even still, the turmoil around the team may well be enough to convince Muhammad to commit elsewhere.
I have long posited that I think Muhammad will end up picking Kentucky. However, it's worth noting that Duke could pose a significant threat. The Blue Devils graduate only senior Miles Plumlee from this year's roster, although Austin Rivers and Mason Plumlee should both be considered NBA early entry candidates. The departure of Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler in consecutive years has really hurt Duke's effectiveness at the wing. The Blue Devils don't have the proper size/talent combination to man the 3, and that's hurt them on both ends of the court.
Muhammad would be a salve, providing superstar scoring offensively and length and presence defensively. Even if Rivers and the elder Plumlii depart, adding Muhammad to a lineup with Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, Ryan Kelly, and redshirting big men Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee would vault the Blue Devils into championship contention...again.