Muhammad's Killer Instinct

Each time Shabazz Muhammad steps onto a basketball court he goes through a personality change.

Off the court the 6-foot-5, 210-pound shooting guard from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman is one of the most popular guys on the AAU circuit. On the court, he's not nearly as nice.

"I think the thing that separates him from everybody else is that he's a fierce competitor," Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said. "No matter where he's playing, no matter who he's playing, he's just going out there and trying to get it done. He's not messing around. He has that killer instinct and he's not going to take his foot off the gas pedal."

Unlike many of his peers who teeter between positions, Muhammad is a true scoring wing in the mold of a Michael Redd or James Harden. He scores in bunches -- consistently knocking down the perimeter jumper with a high lefty release, scoring in the mid-range and attacking the rim hard.

As a sophomore, Muhammad averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds for Bishop Gorman, punishing defenses from all over the floor. During the summer his offensive numbers improved, consistently scoring in the 30s for Dream Vision.

"Shabbazz is the ultimate scorer," Dream Vision AAU coach Clayton Williams said. "He has a great mid-range game. He can shoot the long ball and he's very explosive athletically. He has a little bit of everything."

Williams says it's Muhammad's versatility that makes him so dangerous.

In addition to his quick first step and deft shooting touch, Muhammad can take smaller players inside, utilizing a 6-foot-11 wingspan to shoot over the top. So few high school two-guards can score in the mid-range that defenders have a hard time keying in on any one aspect of his attack.

"He knows how to use his body," Rice said. "He uses the glass well. He likes bank shots. He likes the jump hook. But he can turn around, pop out and shoot the jumpshot also."

While he is a pure shooting guard today, Muhammad's roots are in the post and that helped mold his approach.

As a freshman, Muhammad's dad Ron Holmes forced his son to play inside, learning how to score through contact against bigger players and finish around the hoop. As a result he plays bigger and tougher than most guards.

"He's a punisher," Williams said. "He's naturally strong. He likes to play physical. He likes to play against guys who mix it up."

At 210 pounds, Muhammad's frame is still developing. He just started lifting weights this year and is getting stronger by the day. Rice thinks Muhammad will end up around 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds by the time he graduates high school.

Williams said when Muhammad's muscle matches his demeanor it will make him even tougher to guard.

"Now that he's on a weight regimen, I think people will see big things out of Shabazz," Williams said.

Playing on a team with four other Division I prospects, Muhammad won't have to carry the scoring load every night at Bishop Gorman. As a result he'll try to work on other aspects of his game that aren't as polished as his scoring ability.

In addition to trying to average five assists per game this winter, Muhammad also wants to improve his ball-handling skills. Muhammad has a tendency to go to his left too much but he's working on that.

"For some strange reasons lefties are very left-handed," Rice said. "He knows he needs to work on going to his right more. I'm sure there are going to be some people who try to force him to his right this year but we've been working on going to his right and pulling up for his jump shot or going to his right and finishing right."

Williams agrees Muhammad is a little left-hand heavy but says it's a little blown out of proportion. Williams said a lot of times Muhammad goes to his right simply because no one has stopped it yet.

"He's very deliberate in his attack," Williams said. "One guy told him ‘You scored 35 points but all you did is go left.' And Shabazz told him ‘You're lucky I didn't go right because I would've scored 70.'"

With his versatility, Muhammad's coaches aren't ever quite sure how he'll put the ball in the basket but Rice said there's one thing he can always count on.

"The one thing he does consistently is he tries to go out there and punish his opponents," Rice said. "He's got that killer instinct."

Shabazz Muhammad Profile

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