Is This The Final Visit For Shabazz?

The Blue Devils have long committed to the idea of waiting out a decision from Shabazz Muhammad. Now, with the nation's top wing player able to see the end of his recruitment on the horizon, Duke will get a chance to host the top target in the class of 2012 for a rivalry weekend in which the final pitch will be made.

"We're certainly excited to get out to Duke and see what everything is all about," said Muhammad's father Ron Holmes. "I know we fly out on Thursday night and then will start the visit on Friday morning at Coach K's house for breakfast. From there it looks like they have a lot planned."

Holmes, who has guided his son throughout the process, says his camp maintains regular contact with the Duke coaches with Shabazz speaking regularly with head coach Mike Krzyzewski and he speaking with assistant Steve Wojciechowski. Those relationships have been developed over a two year recruitment and are playing a central role in how the two parties move forward.

"The relationship Shabazz has with Coach K is very strong. I think it stems from the level of respect Shabazz has for him. Coach K has coached so many great players and he's not afraid to be down and dirty honest with you. For instance, on the in-home he's not so much selling Shabazz as he was coaching him. Telling him what he could do better and what Duke would demand of him. For a while he was explaining some defensive things and was down in a defense stretch and sliding side to side on our kitchen floor."

That in-home visit is well into the past though. Since that time Muhammad has taken three official visits to Southern Cal, Kansas, and Kentucky. He's also taken unofficial visits to UNLV and UCLA. Leading up to and following each visit the rumor mill kicked up with suggestions of various programs jockeying for assumed positions. But Holmes says those rumors have no basis.

"We've learned to let those kinds of things just roll off our backs. Nobody writing those things has talked to us directly. We've been consistent throughout the process. Our answers have not changed. Nobody in our family has been asked when those rumors start. They are nothing more than someone's opinions."

What isn't a rumor is the amount of bad press generated from the long time assumed leader, UCLA. It's something the Bruin coaching staff has attempted to correct according to Holmes.

"They told us the article was coming out and we reviewed it. We've spoken to the coaches about it. There are some things in there that are definitely disturbing and there are some real issues there. I've been a college athlete and those kinds of issues happen at a lot of programs. It's something we have to look at, but also something we have to keep in perspective. At the end of the day UCLA is a great program and has done a really good job with Shabazz. It's why they are one of the finalists."

One thing the finalists all have in common, according to Holmes, is the thoroughness of their recruiting efforts. In fact the family says there's not much more any school can do or say. That goes for this weekend as well.

"With this weekend there aren't any more questions we have. There really isn't anything they have not addressed or discussed with us at length. We know where Duke stands and what Duke offers. This visit is mainly about seeing the program at its best and to make sure we can make the most thorough decision possible."

But that won't be easy.

"As he gets to the point where he has to make the decision, it's going to be really tough. Each of these programs is a high major. Each of these coaches have had success and are great options. Shabazz is very fortunate to face a decision where he cannot make a bad decision. The hardest part is going to be telling the people he's not coming."

That process is probably several weeks away, however. After visiting Duke, Holmes says the family will begin weighing options and preparing for the postseason all-star games.

"Right now we're not sure if we're even going to bother with a final visit to another school. We have that option, but at this point I'm not sure it's going to happen."

Which means this trip to Durham could be the final hurdle in a recruitment that has been a long and taxing affair on father, son, and presumably coaches. In the end it'll all be in Shabazz's hands, but what does Holmes want for his son?

"As a parent I want him to go to a program that will develop him. I want him to play for a coach that will help him mature as a young man. I want him to go to a school that has a good academic program which will keep him on track to graduate no matter how long he's in college."

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