Not only will Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski look to defeat North Carolina Saturday, but he will also attempt to win over one of the best players in high school basketball.
Shabazz Muhammad, ESPNU’s No. 2 overall recruit in the Class of 2012, will make an official visit to Duke and Cameron Indoor Stadium for Saturday night’s contest against the Tar Heels.
The 6-foot-6 left-hander is the complete package on the floor, but his ability to attack the rim is especially noteworthy. The elite athleticism that produces highlight-reel dunks also makes him a top-notch defender. And to top it all off, he is a grounded, hard-working player who consistently gets high marks for intensity and in-game mentality.
After averaging 30 points and 10 rebounds per game in his senior season and leading Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nev. to three state titles during his career, Muhammad is considered to be the best high school basketball player ever to come out of Nevada.
“He’s a cornerstone guy, a program-changer,” said Jeff Goodman, a college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com.
Given the caliber of his talent, Muhammad has had many suitors throughout his long and methodical recruitment. But despite dozens of scholarship offers, Muhammad has given no indication of his preferences, instigating a years-long swirl of online rumors.
“It’s a recruitment that has played out on a national stage and there’s been a lot of speculation,” ESPN senior recruiting analyst Dave Telep said. “But I don’t think anyone has a great pulse on it and it’s been conducted at the highest level in front of everybody.”
Fans and recruiting experts alike have attentively tracked Muhammad’s every word as he decides between six prospective schools—UCLA, Kansas, Kentucky, UNLV, Southern California and Duke.
The intrigue of Muhammad’s recruitment was amplified Wednesday with the release of two controversial reports. First, UCLA was sullied by an article released by Sports Illustrated that revealed reports of drug use by Bruin players and several instances of wrongdoing by head coach Ben Howland.
Then, Goodman and Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com reported the NCAA is investigating Muhammad’s amateur status after he allegedly received funding from close friends of his father, Ron Holmes. Holmes admitted to allegations that North Carolina-based financial planner Benjamin Lincoln—whose brother Geoff is one of Muhammad’s high school coaches—financed unofficial visits to Duke and North Carolina in 2010. Furthermore, New York financial adviser Ken Kavanagh has also admitted to donating money to Dream Vision, which he and Holmes jointly run. Holmes indicated to CBSSports.com that these actions were legal under NCAA rules because he filled out all the necessary compliance forms and fully disclosed all information.
Despite the ongoing investigation, the news is not expected to greatly influence Muhammad’s college decision.
“I don’t think it affects him that much,” Goodman said. “I think every team in the mix would gladly sign up, even if Shabazz is going to miss eight games or so. He’s that good of a player.”
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The accusations could give Duke a better chance in Muhammad’s recruitment due to the Blue Devils’ reputation as an upstanding program.
“Mike Krzyzewski has been as respected of a person as there is in this industry and if [Muhammad] goes to Duke, he’s cleansed in a sense,” Goodman said.
Krzyzewski declined to comment on the situation in his press conference Thursday.
Despite any advantages this situation might give the Blue Devils, though, Goodman sees Kentucky winning this recruiting battle.
“The smart money is always on John Calipari,” Goodman said.
But if Duke loses Muhammad to the Wildcats, it will not be for a lack of effort in his recruitment, since he is very familiar with head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his program. Muhammad and Holmes, who played basketball at Southern California, have attended games in Durham each of the past two seasons, including a previous matchup with North Carolina in 2010. In addition, Muhammad has visited campus with his AAU team, Dream Vision, for several summer tournaments. Last September, Krzyzewski paid an in-home visit to Muhammad in Las Vegas, and Holmes was reportedly in attendance when Duke, Kansas and UCLA were playing in the Maui Invitational in November.
During his senior year so far, Muhammad has visited every school on his list except Duke. This weekend’s official visit to Durham marks the climax in what has been a persistent effort by Krzyzewski and his staff to land the high-flying Nevada prodigy.
“Duke has made Shabazz Muhammad a priority for the better part of two years,” Telep said. “Their pitch to him culminates on Saturday or Sunday morning.”