Easy to see why Shabazz Muhammad is a top recruit

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Leila Navidi

Shabazz Muhammad practices at Bishop Gorman High School Wednesday, July 20, 2011.

What stands out to me about Bishop Gorman High School basketball star Shabazz Muhammad is how he elevates his level of play in big games. It’s easy to see why he is the nation’s top recruit.

He’s got the total package, and every coach I talk to speaks highly of him. I’ve seen him play three times, twice last year and last week during the adidas Super 64 tournament at Rancho High School. It was such a great environment at Rancho, and Shabazz really put on a show. I went with coaches John Calipari of Kentucky and Bob Huggins of West Virginia, and afterward we went to dinner at Piero’s.

Shabazz is just an all-around great player who is a natural athlete and has great athletic ability. It’s no wonder why everyone is recruiting him.

I don’t know if you can sell him on one thing. You are going to have to build a relationship with him. I’m sure UNLV coach Dave Rice and his staff are doing that.

Shabazz surprised me with how well he shoots the ball from the outside. He’s just a big-time player, probably one of the best to come out of Las Vegas.

Some of the others were Freddie Banks, my son Danny, Matt Othick (who went to Arizona), of course Greg Anthony and Pace Mannion. Mannion was a 6-foot-5 guard from Chaparral High in the 1970s who I thought highly of and eventually played for the Utah Jazz. Shabazz is definitely in the conversation.

It was nice to see Rice get a commitment from Baltimore guard Daquan Cook. When I coached at UNLV, we had a good pipeline of players come from that area with the James brothers — Spoon, Karl “Boobie” and Keith — and Gary Graham from the 1987 Final Four team. That’s a great place to find players.

We had a good connection with an AAU coach in Baltimore and that helped open the door. Recruiting is all about relationships and scouting parts of the country you have connections in. There were a lot of great players in the South, but we never recruited them. We always felt that if we went in the South, you would have to buy the guy if he was great, and we weren’t buying anyone.

I’ve been in California most of the summer, relaxing and playing the horses. It was nice to see some UNLV fans last week. I’m feeling about the same — some days are better than others. Talk with everyone in a few weeks.

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