Muhammad on Intensity

Shabazz Muhammad talks about his constant need to work out in the gym, what drives his intensity, and how much of an adjustment it's been to play defense at a high level...

Shabazz Muhammad talks about working on his game:


SM: oh yeah, I'm just trying to work on anything I have possible. I'm a little tight. My hips have always been tight. Just going to start doing yoga. They say Blake Griffin and those guys do a lot of yoga so, I mean, you see they're jumping. So I'm going to try to get my jumping even jumping higher, and I think that'll help my game.

Q: so when will that start?

SM: probably when I get back from the road trip. Our schedule is always really compact, but I'm really going to try to fit that in. Because that's one thing that I want to do throughout my career.

Q: Coach said you got into the gym last night after your guys' workout and did some more extra work. Has that been something that coaches have had to tell you not to do maybe in the past?

SM: oh yeah, Coach tries to kick me out of the gym. I'm always in there. I'm trying to be a gym rat. I'm always in the gym almost every day. After practice and at night. So it's continuously being in the gym and it's really improving my game. I just want to be out there. I just love playing the game basketball.

Q: is there anything extra you do when you do it individually?

SM: it's ball handling. Extra jump shooting and 3 pointers. I think that's why my 3 pointers have been doing really good. Even though Coach takes me to the side after practice and shoots 3's with me, but at night, I'm also shooting. And working on my moves and my ballhandling. It's really been helping me.

Q: did you work with Jordan at all this summer on your 3?

SM: oh yeah, that guy can shoot it. I always ask him how he's shooting it so well. And that's one thing. You can always take bits and pieces out of one player because they're always better at something that you don't do. And that's one thing I try to do also.

Q: but he [Coach Howland] said your knees were bothering you today because you've been in the gym so much.

SM: oh yeah, I think I've been in the gym a little bit too much. Even though we have games, I've been in the gym every day. Just getting iced. And getting in the cold tub. Like I said, I'm going to continually get into the gym because that's one thing I like to do, and it's really expanded my game.

Q: so how do you balance it then between being sore and being good?

SM: I think it's going to help right now, the road trip. Obviously, I can't go to the gym on the road trip. So I'm going to really relax and just focus on these games. And make sure we get these wins. And come back and it's back to the drawing board. Back to the gym again.

Q: how much of a challenge do you expect it to be? I mean, you guys went to Texas, but going on the road [to Utah] against a tough opposing crowd…

SM: oh yeah, absolutely. I really think this is going to change from Texas because there weren't as many fans [at Texas]. But Utah is probably going to be packed with fans screaming at you. And at Colorado, I know that's going to be a packed game. And like I said, the elevation is going to be hard for us to breathe so we've been getting a lot of extra running in practice, and I feel that's going to help us out.

Q: do you feel that just because your name's been out there so much that you are the target of these types of fans?

SM: oh, absolutely. I love that. I thrive for that. I like the fans to talk junk and all that stuff. That's the best win: the road wins. Because you can look at it and you can shut the fans fast by winning.

Q: what's the most clever junk that's been thrown at you?

SM: cleverest junk? Probably the NCAA incident. That's probably going to come up, I know. So I'm getting ready for that.

Q: you think?

SM: yeah, probably. That's probably something that's going to come up.

Q: good news is you're not going to Oregon this year.

SM: oh, absolutely. I heard they're pretty bad. So that's one thing I was happy about.

Q: does that kind of taunting help to fuel your game a little bit?

SM: oh, absolutely. Especially if I'm not energized. That stuff makes gets my energy up really fast.

Q: was there a time you could recall from AAU or high school where you were really energized by some fans?

SM: oh, yeah. We played a lot of games in Indiana and played Indiana Elite back when they had Cody Zeller and [Marshall] Plumlee and all of them. And it was a packed house and they were talking trash. And that was a great game.

Q: what do you see as this team's Achilles heel? What is the #1 thing that you guys have to work on?

SM: yeah, I think just gelling more as a team. if you look at it, back when we played Cal Poly and Georgetown, everybody wasn't on the same page. And now we just know each other's games and know what we're going to do on defense and offense. And you could tell our team chemistry is really getting where we want it to be.

Q: explain that a little bit. How was it you guys weren't gelling against Cal Poly?

SM: yeah, it was my first game back. Nobody really knew how I played. We were just playing pickup. Now we can actually play in practice and guys are doing skills development. And Coach was always explaining what guys were good at and what guys weren't good at. And I think it's really helping us.

Q: how much of an adjustment has it been knowing that you have to commit yourself 100% all the time on defense?

SM: oh yeah. In high school, I haven't really committed to that. We didn't really need to play defense in high school. Guys weren't as elite. And I think it's really helping me out. That's why I came here. Because I know Coach Howland is a really good guy on defense. And I think my defense has really improved, and it's going to really help me for the next level.

Q: how do you guys get better, as a team, rebounding?

SM: it's just a thing where you just have to go get it. You have to have the heart to go get the rebound. And that's one thing that Coach Howland that has challenged me on also which is getting the rebounds. And I look forward to doing that on the away games because that's the biggest thing: getting rebounds, boxing out, and securing the ball.

Q: you did a great job on Saturday. Especially in the first half on the defensive boards. How did you approach that?

SM: oh, yeah. That was a challenge to me. Coach Howland was saying the guy who I was guarding [Josh Huestis , #24] was averaging 10 rebounds and was a defensive rebound monster and offensive rebounds… so I had to go… and I know I can get rebounds. It's just a thing where you have to have effort and that's what I'm going to start doing every game because I know I can do it. So it's going to really help our team out on defense especially in securing the ball.

Q: where did you learn how to play without the ball on the offensive end? It seems a lot of guys your age kind of stand around but you're constantly working on it?

SM: oh yeah. I think that's from watching film. Every game we play, I watch film. And when my dad's here, I'm watching film. How to cut without the ball. When you're not going to get the ball, you can cut and guys are going to look for you.

Q: Coach Howland said that your drive is kind of what makes you special. When did that start for you? Do you remember feeling that way?

SM: yeah, I think that started for me as a kid. in high school, even though rankings don't matter, I remember I wasn't ranked as high and I was mad. I was ranked like 7, and I wanted to be #1. And I've always worked in the gym. I was telling my dad when I was in the gym, "I want to be ranked #1." And that's how I look at it. I want to be the best freshman. I want to be the best player in college basketball. That's why I'm always in the gym every day, trying to improve my game and trying to improve our team to get a win.

Q: do you do specific stuff to motivate yourself? Put up photos of the guys who were #1?

SM: oh, no. If I'm handling business in the gym and taking care of myself, it'll all play out for me.

Q: how much confidence do you guys have, coming off this homestand where you guys had a 6-0 run?

SM: oh, we have a lot of confidence. Even though this road game is going to test us, both Colorado and Utah are going to be tough on the road. So we have to really have to buckle down and win these games.

Q: how is the mindset of the team right now going on the road?

SM: oh, we're feeling really confident. We're really playing hard in practice, going over their personnel in Utah. Utah is a very good team. They almost beat Arizona. And Colorado almost beat Arizona also. They're going to be some good teams. And the PAC-12 has really improved this year so we're really going to go out and not take anybody for granted.

Q: have you ever played in altitude before?

SM: no, I haven't. That's going to be something that's interesting. And Coach has been running us in practice so hopefully that'll help us when we get out there.

Q: [audio difficulties]

SM: oh there isn't. Vegas is a lot of mountains, but I don't know why it doesn't have altitude. Like Denver and Utah. So it's going to be interesting. To see that during shootaround so hopefully we get up and down a couple times during shootaround to see how it really is.

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