Ben Howland is bringing UCLA back. One of the nation’s most prestigious programs had went through a roller coaster of ups and downs, culminating with George Dohrmann’s piece on the internal chaos that was going on in Westwood. Many questioned if Howland would be able to survive (and he has), largely in part to what was the nation’s best recruiting class before Nerlens Noel decided to jump to the 2012 class. UCLA’s class offered size (Tony Parker), outside shooting (Jordan Adams), and versatility (Kyle Anderson). While those are all great pieces, it was the nation’s best basketball player who took the Bruins over the top: Shabazz Muhammad.
While out in Las Vegas, we were invited to check out Shabazz Muhammad working out at Bishop Gorman while he was back home. His father, Ron Holmes, put Shabazz through a grueling workout lasting an hour and a half. Starting things off with some light ball-handling work, things quickly transitioned to shooting. Shabazz spent a considerable amount of time doing form shooting before going into a series of elbow jumpers in a variety of forms. The 6’6 swingman shot the ball on the move, from a standstill, and with a series of one dribble pull-ups. It was clear that shooting was going to be the focus of the workout and that point was only re-emphasized as Muhammad stepped back beyond the 3-point line, where he’s trying to become more consistent.
“I’m just trying to focus on my jumpshooting,” college basketball’s top freshman explained. “I think that on the next level, jump shooting and 3 point shooting are the most important thing. I’m trying to get to the next level, so I’m trying to get my jump shot down and improve my mechanics.”
Once he got behind the three point line, ‘Bazz performed a series of Kobe-esque jab-steps before shooting it from beyond the arc. The results appeared much improved too, given that he shot it at over a 60% clip by our count. Transitioning from the three point line closer to the rim, the 220-pounder gave us an idea of the sort of mismatch that he can be down on the blocks. Working on a series of jump hooks with each hand, Holmes had his son work in a series of counter-moves to go along with the jump hooks. It was clear that work in the pivot was something that the duo was looking to reinforce, something Shabazz concurred with.
“Absolutely,” the UCLA freshman confidently responded when asked if he was going to be posting a lot in Ben Howland’s offense. “That’s the most important part of my game because I want to be so versatile and get guys in the post. That jump hook is really important to me and I think that it’s a really good addition to my game.
Muhammad concluded the workout with 2 sets of 10 consecutive dunks from close to a standstill. Mind you, there aren’t many 6-foot-6 NBA players who can do this, much less a kid fresh out of high school who has yet to play a college game. His explosiveness is unmatched by nearly every high school wing not named Andrew Wiggins. Given Muhammad’s package of size, skills, motor, and athleticism, it doesn’t take Sam Presti to figure out why he’s going to be a top 5 pick in next year’s NBA Draft. With eligibility issues still looming, the only question now is whether or not we’ll be able to see Shabazz play a college game before he hits the league.