Saturday, May 21, 2011

Shabazz Muhammad as a Rebel

No, Shabazz Muhammad did not just commit to UNLV, this is just a glimpse into a possible future that would be excellent news for UNLV, the fans, and even for Shabazz.

Although this is just a possibility right now – it s a possibility that makes a lot of sense and is a great choice. Before we talk about the benefits for everyone, let’s look at who Shabazz Muhammad  is:

Shabazz Muhammad is a 6’6” 205 lbs shooting guard who is entering his senior year at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, NV. He has been called the best basketball recruit in Southern Nevada history. He is a scoring powerhouse, averaging 25 points per game and a season high last year of 38 against Sierra Vista HS. He is the correct size of a shooting guard, even for NBA standards (MJ was 6’5” and did pretty well). He also has a powerful body, he is able to take the ball to the rim, and pull up inside the arc. He has been known to hit from 3, but that is one of his few offensive weaknesses. Defensively, he is a supreme athletic specimen, he has the quickness and ability to stop others and recapture the ball to lead a fast break. Defensively, the only critiques have been of his ball handling under-pressure, and gambling a little too much trying to go for a steal. Remember this, he’s the #2 prospect in the nation and he was only a junior – nobody’s perfect. He is hardwired to be competitive and his drive to win is extremely high. Everything continuing the way it should for Shabazz, he will be playing at the highest level of basketball professionally, the only question is what path will he take to get there.

The reasons why Shabazz Muhammad should play for the Runnin Rebels (in no particular order):

1.      Vegas is a basketball Mecca – it’s all here, there is nowhere that can compete with Las Vegas in terms of basketball prowess and exposure. Besides UNLV being a traditional basketball powerhouse, we have the NBA summer league, USA Olympic team training camp, qualifiers, and exhibitions, Impact Basketball Academy, Tarkanian Basketball Academy, Thomas and Mack Center, Mendenhall Center (soon to be completed), likely stadium projects that will eventually snag the Sacramento Kings – it’s all here.

2.      Family – Any person who has succeeded at the highest levels, athlete or not, will tell you that they couldn’t have done it without their support system. Playing locally means that your parents, brothers, sisters, friends, former coaches, and mentors are available to you. Would you rather make a telephone call from another timezone when you are going through a tough time, or meet face-to-face and end it with a hug or handshake. Your games will be well attended, but will your family and friends be at all your home games? There are clear advantages to playing collegiate ball in Las Vegas. It’s also a two way street, besides the benefits your family gives to you, think about what you give to them by being local. Shabazz has not had a problem with travel around the country when on the road with Dream Vision, but he’s also had that support system there as his father is an assistant coach with the team. Have it both ways – continue doing what you love with the people you love backing you up – it’s a no brainer.

3.      Staying local – There is something to be said for staying local and being successful. Take Butler University. If you look at that team, it’s a small school with limited historical success in basketball. That said, they’ve just reached the national championship game twice in the last two years – incredible. Chalk some of it up to great coaching or luck, but also look at the roster. Ten out of the fourteen members of that team are from Indiana – the same state as Butler – they are locals, that’s 71% of the team! No disrespect to the excellent players past and present who represent UNLV Basketball but are from places far and near, but even they would agree – if talent is in your own backyard, keep it on lockdown. UNLV has quite a few scholarships available for when Shabazz Muhammad is going to start as a freshman, why not fill that team up and have the roster eventually be Anthony Marshall, Roscoe Allen, Shabazz Muhammad and Ben Carter as the locals. Quite a team, no? So Anthony Marshall graduates and let’s say Muhammad decides not to declare for the draft until after his sophomore year, then you get Dantley Walker and perhaps Nigel Williams-Goss added to that squad – fantastic team of locals, not counting the remaining great players we have / will be getting.

4.      Coaching style – Coach Dave Rice has been a man of his word, everything he has said up to now has come true, and I believe him when he says he is going to turn the Runnin’ Rebels back into the Runnin’ Rebels. He even maintains he will continue to keep the team’s defense up to the level it was under Lon Kruger, a defense that was feared and respected throughout college basketball. What player wouldn’t want to be a part of that system? Fast-break transition basketball is awesome to watch, and fun to play. Tarkanian’s teams thrived on quick scoring, and Coach Rice is a Tarkanian student. Shabazz would be ready to start right away at UNLV, the offense and defense would be tailored to his strengths, and an added benefit is Stacey Augmon is here not only teach how to play excellent defense, but as a former NBA player development coach he would prepare him for the NBA. This fits perfectly. Additionally, with a runnin' offense Shabazz's draft stock could rise considerably. An offense that runs closer to 70 ppg has a leading scorer with around 15-16 ppg, but an 80+ppg offense has much more shots and scorers could average closer to 20 ppg, maybe more. What has more significance, Shabazz averaging 15ppg or 20ppg? NBA teams would project him as having more all-star potential with 20ppg in college ball, which leads to a higher draft pick and more guaranteed $$$. It's that simple.

5.      Being the hero – "Local kid helps make UNLV champions again". You can’t script it any better than that. Why go to Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, or North Carolina where you are just the next cog in a system that their fans expect will be there again and again? That’s boring. Who wants to be the new kid buried in a lineup of Mr. (insert your state name here)’s playing in Lexington Kentucky? Why play for Arizona, it’s like Las Vegas – but boring. Forget that crap, stay and be a rock star or royalty in Las Vegas, be the guy to brings an already great program back to the promised land. That’s a story people want to hear, that’s a story the national media wants to write about. No matter if you become Lebron James or Greg Oden, Las Vegas will always appreciate and admire you, you will be a hero to this town. Can the same be said of one of the schools I mentioned? I sincerely doubt it. The impact of Shabazz Muhammad playing for UNLV goes beyond just his time here, be it for only one or all four years. Other excellent local players will want to come play, along with great players from around the nation, and all because one man decided it was the right thing to do. Brilliant.

Shabazz Muhammad playing for UNLV benefits himself, his family, his city, and his State. When you are a top-5 prospect, you write your own ticket. Be a Rebel, and become legendary.

Also would like to congratulate USC Transfer Bryce Jones for making the decision to become a Runnin’ Rebel, you won’t regret it! Likely more on Jones in a future story.

YouTube Clips of Shabazz Muhammad’s dominance:

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