Spotlighting Shabazz Muhammad

Perhaps the top wing player in the talented class of 2012 spent most of the summer on the road preparing for his high school season and beyond.

Over a lunch of gourmet pizza, salads and sandwiches at Adidas Nations, Shabazz Muhammad is having a normal conversation. Most people talk with Muhammad about basketball, but on this day he is enjoying the life of a normal teenager, discussing iPhones, traveling and the upcoming Transformers movie.

The table consists of no other ballplayers, or anybody else his age for that matter, but Muhammad is comfortable in his own skin. He's easy to talk to with a relaxed demeanor; mature and confident for a 16-year old. With the way his future looks on the basketball court, he'll probably need his charisma as he climbs to the next level.

You would never know so much pressure would be on his shoulders. Already a two-time state champion and owner of a five-star ranking, Muhammad is one of a handful of high school basketball players that is coveted by every college basketball program in the country. And although he speaks with NBA players and is the center of attention whenever he steps on the floor, Shabazz maintains an intense focus on getting better and winning.

"It's been a great experience playing with all of these talented guys. You're playing with the best and competing," Muhammad said. "I think it's a great experience getting to travel all over the country and getting acquainted with this. In college we're going to have to travel a lot so it's good to get acquainted with this."

Shabazz has probably racked up more frequent flyer miles than most businessmen to this point. Just this spring and summer alone he's been all across the country in AAU tournaments and through the Adidas Nations program.

"Sometimes I really like it, even though I don't go home for a few weeks," Muhammad said of the travel. "I really like the experience. It's something I really want to do so you kind of have to get used to this stuff."

The travel can still be tough though. Muhammad will likely earn a living playing basketball someday, but at this point he doesn't have the elite level facilities on the road like the pros do. Getting in the gym and lifting weights with all of the travel is a challenge.

"It's difficult. Back in Vegas I do a lot of lifting and stuff," Muhammad said. "I can't do a lot of lifting when I'm on the road. So I just try to train and lift when I get back to Vegas."

Luckily the majority of Muhammad's travels are over as the school-year sets in. As high school season creeps closer, Shabazz is aware of his legacy and what it will take to defend his back-to-back state championships.

"That's going to be fun with the high school. The AAU circuit is fun but now I'm getting prepared for high school," Muhammad said.

And who could blame him? Bishop Gorman, the first catholic high school in Nevada, has a tremendous tradition that makes it one of the finest high schools in the country for athletics. Last year the Gaels won state titles in football, boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball, girls golf and girls tennis.

The brand-new campus, a 93 million dollar site west of the Las Vegas strip, opened in 2007 after the old downtown campus was closed. Situated at the base of the Spring Mountains, it is a breathtaking area with a football stadium that would make many small colleges blush.

"I love it (there), we really have to represent that school right," Muhammad said. "We have some really good coaches there and we have some really good games coming up and some really good tournaments. So we're looking forward to that."

Gorman produces many BCS-level football players and Shabazz realizes the importance of keeping the basketball program winning.

"We've really been working on that. Obviously winning two championships helps with that," Shabazz said. "Now we're working on two more. We're trying to catch up to those guys."

The Gaels basketball program will have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves nationally during the season. They'll play the prestigious City of Palms Classic in Fort Meyers, Florida as well as events in Portland and Massachusetts. They'll also get a chance to play Findlay Prep, arguably the nation's best prep program, which also doubles as Gorman's unofficial state-rival in basketball.

Bishop Gorman will return plenty of talent though. Being a private school, they have they ability to get kids from all over Las Vegas.

"I'm about 15 minutes (away)," Muhammad said. "(Some teammates live) pretty far. Some people live like an hour away but the commitment they make is really good."

But Shabazz can rest easy knowing the commitment his teammates are making. He prides himself on getting better and has a couple of mentors to look up to.

"I really like working out with OJ Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Tyreke Evans and those pros. I really look up to those guys," Muhammad said. "I just try to get advice from those guys and they give back some good advice and I look to listen to that."

"They tell me to make the right decision for college because when you're there, you're there. Make the right decision, always stay in the gym and always stay hungry and humble."

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