And for the most part, his role had been spot minutes off the bench to give Michigan starters a breather here and there throughout Big Ten play.
But in a moment’s notice Abdur-Rahkman role changed when he walked into U-M’s locker room and saw his name written on the board as a first time starter. He would be replacing junior guard Spike Albrecht, who had just been ruled out with an respiratory infection.
"It was a game-time decision. It was kind of a surprise to me,” Abdur-Rahkman said . “I knew Spike was dealing with a sickness a little bit. So anything can happen.”
Something did happen.
With 57.7 seconds left, Abdur-Rahkman received the ball at the top of the key. With no hesitation, he set, lifted and delivered a picture perfect 3-point shot that filled the bottom of the bucket. It would put the Wolverines up four – they would hold on from there to beat Northwestern 56-54 – and the humble soft spoken freshman handled it stride.
“It was a wide open jump shot,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “Coach always tells us to shoot with confidence. And when you’re open like that, you have to kind of take that shot.”
Although, he admits, he didn’t know it was a made shot till it hit nylon.
“It felt good, but the previous jump shot went in and out. So I had no idea,” Abdur-Rahkman said.
On the night, Abdur-Rahkman finished with nine points, on 4 of 7 shooting, five rebounds – all career-highs -- in 26 minutes played, also a career-high.
While Abdur-Rahkman was the starter, his role is still an “outlier” as a contributing role player U-M coach John Beilein said, noting nobody could have predicted his performance versus Northwestern.
“Nobody went in there today saying, ‘I can’t wait for Muhammad to hit a big shot, right?’” Beilein said. “Nobody thought that. And that’s whether [he] start[‘s] or not.
“Tonight was Muhammad's turn, and he did a great job."
However, Abdur-Rahkman credits his success or better yet – lack of nerves -- to Beilein and his coaching staff for how they prepared him before his big night.
“[The] coaches and players have confidence in everybody, and they make sure that we're prepared," Abdur-Rahkman said; adding his late game experience on Tuesday at Ohio State helped with his nervousness. "It definitely helped. It helped get rid of butterflies or being shy -- helped a lot."
And while most freshman may have been excited, ecstatic even, Abdur-Rahkman took it in stride. Just how he handled the news when he found out. He kept his spot start a secret. He told no one. Only letting his play do the talking.
“I was kind of excited,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “I guess I could’ve [called someone] but I didn’t. I kept it a secret.”
The secret is now out, and now Abdur-Rahkman may have found his role on this years team.
“It builds confidence,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “It definitely builds confidence. Next time when Spike comes back and starts, I can come off the bench and have confidence right away.”