UNLV BASKETBALL:

Bum ankle leads to sour ending to AAU season for Shabazz Muhammad

Top 2012 recruit struggles to tally 22 points as Dream Vision falls in adidas Super 64 championship game, 93-78, to Texas Assault

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Sam Morris

Dream Vision’s Shabazz Muhammad is surrounded by media after playing the Atlanta Celtics Friday, July 22, 2011 during the adidas Super 64 tournament.

adidas Super 64

KSNV coverage of adidas Super 64 title game and Bishop Gorman's Shabazz Muhammad, July 26, 2011.

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The Rebel Room

Recruiting season hits its peak

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This week on LasVegasSun.com Sports Talk - doubling as The Rebel Room podcast - Ray Brewer and Ryan Greene break down a busy recruiting month for Dave Rice and his UNLV men's basketball staff. The crazy weekend in Las Vegas included three big tournaments, and the the guys will fill you in on who the staff made sure to go watch, who has emerged as the primary recruiting targets and who could likely be the next commit - or two - in the class of 2012.

Shabazz Muhammad said it would have at least taken a broken foot to keep him out of Tuesday night's adidas Super 64 title game at Rancho High.

What about a sprained ankle that was swollen up just bigger than the size of a baseball? Well, he tried.

Muhammad — the 6-foot-6 Bishop Gorman star who is arguably the top recruit in the 2012 senior class — turned the ankle on Tuesday morning in a semifinal victory over Indiana Elite, went home afterward and spent roughly five hours treating it, trying to get right in time for the 5 p.m. championship tilt against Texas Assault.

"He iced it, treated it, put Tiger Balm on it … everything," his father, Ron Holmes, said. "We knew he might be ineffective, but he just wanted to give it a go. Once he started playing, he didn't want to come out."

Muhammad wasn't necessary detrimental to his Dream Vision squad, but he wasn't able to be the dominant force he consistently was throughout the weekend.

Dream Vision fell to its Dallas-based foe, 93-78, in front of a healthy crowd in Rancho's main gym. They led 44-38 at the break behind a strong 15-point first half performance from forward Winston Shepard. But the patient, balanced brand of ball that helped Texas Assault run off a string of upsets to reach the championship game took over. They outscored Dream Vision 55-34 in the second half behind explosive showings by guards Phillip Forte and Marcus Smart.

Smart, the tournament MVP, registered 29 points, 18 rebounds and five assists Tuesday night. The showing from the highly-touted, 6-foot-4 guard from Flower Mound, Texas, was complemented by a 20-point night from Forte, who scored 15 of those in the second half.

As for Muhammad, he was visibly limited.

With a physical advantage over almost everyone he faced in the tournament, he strung together several 30-point games mostly on drives to the hole and free throws.

After spraining the ankle, he posted a picture of the swollen joint on Twitter, and one look at it made it seem nearly impossible for him to play at that same level just a few hours later. That turned out to be the case.

The left-handed Muhammad simply could not burst off of his right foot, struggling to finish looks in near the rim from lower angles than normal.

He adjusted his game and was left to rely on outside shots, but he went only 2-of-6 from 3-point range. His 22 points on the night came off of patchy 8-of-22 shooting.

"I just wanted to help my team win, even if my performance wasn't that good," Muhammad said. "I had to shoot more. I wasn't as quick as I usually am. I was slow. I couldn't jump off of that foot or explode off of it, so I just tried to get my mid-range shot going and play defense for my team."

Muhammad swished a corner 3-pointer to open the second half, and after a Texas Assault bucket, Shepard added a deuce, putting Dream Vision up by nine at 49-40.

Minutes later, Smart and forward Nick Banyard combined on a quick 9-0 run that put the Assault up 59-52 — a lead they would never relinquish.

While Shepard disappeared in the second half, Muhammad remained streaky. As the game got out of hand in the final few minutes, he had no desire to sit and watch.

"I didn't think he was going to be able to finish this one, but he just wouldn't come out of the game," Holmes said. "We gave it a go, but he was pretty much ineffective."

Of course, a bad performance on a bum ankle won't devalue Muhammad's stock at all. It came in front of several coaches who hung around for the end of the Super 64 — more than usual, in fact. In attendance was Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski, Kansas assistant Danny Manning, three coaches from UNLV — Dave Rice and assistants Justin Hutson and Heath Schroyer — and many more.

And as soon as calling Muhammad is permitted, they'll likely have the phone in his house ringing off of the hook.

With his AAU season over, Muhammad can now focus on listening to them.

Holmes said Muhammad will be shut down for a bit to rest up. He'll try and heal in time to participate in the adidas Global Experience in Los Angeles, running Aug. 5-8. It's the final stop on the adidas Nations 2011 tour. Finally, he plans on participating in the Boost Mobile Elite 24 in Venice Beach, Calif., Aug. 26-27.

After that, it's nothing but recruiting, school and his upcoming senior season.

As of right now, Muhammad said his unofficial list includes — in no particular order — UNLV, Kentucky, UCLA, Duke, Texas, Memphis, Texas A&M and a few others.

Expect the entire process, no matter how long it lasts, to be intense.

"They're going to be calling, seeing what I want to do for my (five) official visits, so I'm going to look at that and go from there," he said. "I was worried about the AAU circuit, and now I'm going to focus on colleges."

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  1. The only reason why Shabazz won't come to UNLV:

    The Mountain West TV contracts

    Please tell me if I am wrong here

  2. I think you have a very valid point on that being a potential hiccup. No question. HOWEVER, maybe landing a guy like Shabazz would open the door to UNLV getting a few more national TV appearances on CBS (in MWC play) or ESPN (in non-con). You never know.

  3. You can argue that Jimmer Fredette and to a lesser extent Kawhi Leonard prove that the MWC contract will not hurt exposure. CBS would be absolutely stupid to not play some UNLV games if they land a player like Shabazz when they have the rights to the games.

  4. David, the one big difference, though, is that neither Kawhi or Jimmer were the top overall recruit in their respective senior classes. The TV deal doesn't necessarily kill recruiting, but it can't help when you're going after upper echelon kids. That's why this is such a unique situation, because when was the last time that a Mountain West school was seriously in the hunt for a recruit ranked as a consensus Top-3 player in his class?

  5. I wonder if the fact that Shabazz is an Adidas guy and UNLV is a Nike school will have any affect on the decision?

  6. yellow,

    It will have no affect. The reason shoe companies try to get these kids while they're in HS is so that when (er, if) they turn pro, they have a better shot at locking them into a shoe deal (i.e. John Wall playing on a Reebok-sponsored AAU team, going to a Nike school, now being a Reebok pitchman). And, for what it's worth, almost every time I've ever seen Shabazz working out outside of an AAU game, he's usually in Nike gear.

  7. NBA scouts and NBA money dont watch games on TV..they watch them in person. Like Ryan said, our contract is owned by CBS..give us the number 1 player in the country and some success,... and no we aren't going to be on ESPN...we will be playing on national TV (not cable) on CBS. This past season with SDSU (Leonard) and BYU's (Jimmer) are perfect examples.

    @yellowsub..I think Ron is too hands on and he isnt going to let a shoe company (sole INfluence) decide where Bazz goes. BG is a NIke school too?

  8. I absolutely love Bazz and hope he becomes a hometown hero. If he goes elsewhere I wish him all the best as he is a class act and will always be a Las Vegan.

    @Ryan
    I too have really fallen in love with Demarquise Johnsons game. I was wondering your thoughts on him coming to UNLV. I found an article http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2011... that makes it seem as thou it's down to two schools. With all their available playing time does having Bryce Jones here hurt our chances with Demarquise?

  9. @ginger, by "we" do you mean "you."

    He's from Vegas, and he's looking at the #1 overall pick. I'd say that's pretty rare in itself, especially that he's looking at UNLV too.

    If you don't care, you didn't have to open the article ;)

  10. I know all the Rebel fans will say I am hating on Shabazz, but I went to every one of Shabazz's games at the Adidas 64 tournament and I wasn't really that impressed, even before the ankle injury that the Sun wants to use as an excuse for their loss. At 6'6" he's going to project to be a 2 guard, yet this kid has a shaky jumper at best. He probably went 6 for 30 from 3 pt range at best during the tournament. Most of his points are either off dunks, or buckets in the paint. He's slow footed, and has a hard time creating his own shot. These are skills that are essential for a 2 guard at the next level. He also does alot of whining and complaining to officials during the course of the game, wanting every call to go his way if he is touched in the slightest bit. High School rankings are a joke now a days. I saw at least 2-3 other players in the tournament that were clearly better than Muhammad, and you could make the case that he wasn't even the best player on his own team in this tournament. I thought Winston Shepherd was the clear leader of the Dream Vision squad. Yes, Muhammad is a good high school player, but the flaws I mentioned above lead me to believe that he's not going to be as good as everybody thinks at the next level and beyond.

  11. Here is how it works cane, when people like coach k say he's the best and want to build teams with him as a centerpiece, then you know there is just something there you are not seeing. How many final fours have the coaches been to who are recruiting him. Probably over 15.

  12. I get what you are saying Djkgroup, but Coach K has had plenty of bust players in his time. Of course nobody bats 100%, which is why it is ok for people to question how good this kid really is. Instead of using the argument you used come up with some specifics about Shabazz that you think make him such a good player. that makes for a better argument. I'll give you my negatives for him. Slow lateral movement, poor outside shooting, no right hand, cant get open and has a hard time creating his own shot other than a straight attack of the basket.