Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Shabazz: Kentucky Win ‘Boosted Their Option for Me’; Recruits Could Impact Calipari’s Future at Kentucky
Shabazz Muhammad says Kentucky’s win in Monday night’s NCAA championship game “boosted their option for me,” but that he remains undecided and plans to pick a school in the days following Saturday’s Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Ore.
Asked what kind of impact Kentucky’s victory over Kansas had on his thought process, Muhammad told SNY.tv Thursday by phone from Portland: “That has an impact. Just seeing how they run in transtion, how those guys get out so fast and how Coach Cal has the guards really getting out and running the floor. it just boosted their option for me by going there.”
The 6-foot-6 Muhammad is the top uncommitted wing prospect in the Class of 2012 and recently won the Slam Dunk contest at the McDonald’s All-American Game and also took home game MVP honors.
He is expected to announce for Kentucky, UCLA or Duke on Wednesday on ESPN.
“I think they’re all kind of equal right now, those three schools,” Muhammad told SNY.tv.
He is in a unique position at the Hoop Summit because his teammates include Kentucky signee Archie Goodwin, UCLA commit Kyle Anderson and Duke-bound Rasheed Sulaimon.
All three have been in his ear.
“Oh, all the time,” Muhammad said. “Rasheed with Duke, Archie with Kentucky and Kyle with UCLA, it’s just so hectic but I’m just enjoying myself down here and I just can’t wait to get the recruiting process over.”
Muhammad said he planned to take a few days following Saturday’s game against the World Select Team to make his decision.
“Yes, I think after the game Saturday I’m really going to talk to the coaches some more and over the last two days really decide where I’m going to go,” he said.
Muhammad is still considering UCLA despite all the turmoil that has engulfed coach Ben Howland in recent weeks.
UCLA’s best weapon in Muhammad’s recruitment is the 6-foot-9 Anderson, who has been compared to Magic Johnson and led St. Anthony to back-to-back unbeaten seasons.
“Oh, so appealing,” Muhammad said. “I mean the dude just knows the game and he’s so smart and can pass the ball. And I think every two guard is looking for a guy who can pass the ball. At 6-9, that’s such a big opportunity for me.”
As for Kentucky, Muhammad can imagine himself fitting in there, too.
“I think I put myself into a Mike GIlchrist-type, how he runs in transition and gets out before everybody,” he said. “How he runs in transition and gets out before everybody and just to really watch him when I’m watching them. And just how good of a job Coach Cal did with them this year.”
Muhammad said he last spoke with Calipari before the championship game.
“And I’m probably going to talk to him in a couple days,” Muhammad said.
Wherever he ends, Muhammad said he wants to win.
“I’m trying to go to school to win,” he said. “I think the one-and-done and all that stuff will come if you come on campus and you do what you have to do and work hard and try to win a national championship.”
Muhammad’s decision, along with those of fellow uncommitted stars Nerlens Noel and Anthony Bennett, could, in turn, impact Calipari.
He has been linked to the Knicks job, but insists he will return to Kentucky next season.
“I have the best job in the country,” Calipari wrote on his Website Wednesday. “Why would I leave after we’ve just won a national title? We’re trying to catch UCLA, folks.”
You have to think if Calipari can land at least two among Muhammad, Noel and Bennett he will feel pretty good about his team next year.
“If Noel and Muhammad go there then they’re back as a national contender,” New York-based recruiting analyst Tom Konchalski told SNY.tv.
The Wildcats could lose their entire starting five to the NBA, but a class of Muhammad, Noel and Bennett, plus what they have now, would arguably be better than the blockbuster 2011 class that featured Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer.
“I cannot imagine Cal leaving for the NBA unless they offered him a Phil Jackson-type contract in excess of $10 million a year which is highly unlikely,” one NBA source told SNY.tv. “He does have the greatest college job that pays him quite well.”
The source added: “I would not be surprised at some point that he ends up coaching in the NBA but not in the next few years.”
The Daily News reported Wednesday that the franchise will target Calipari as a replacement for interim coach Mike Woodson.
“Do I think they’ve spoken directly to Cal? No,” one source told the newspaper. “Do I think he knows they’re very interested? Definitely.”
Yes, it was CAA that helped broker the Carmelo Anthony-to-the-Knicks and J.R. Smith-to-New York deals, as the paper points out.
And CAA would be the logical home, too, for Kentucky freshman Kidd-Gilchrist, who considers William Wesley, aka “World Wide Wes,” to be an uncle. Wesley is also a consultant for CAA.
The Knicks already have one former Calipari player in reserve Josh Harrellson. It isn’t hard to imagine them, under a Calipari-led team, trying to broker a deal for Kidd-Gilchrist, the former Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick star who has heroicly battled a stutter and was named to the Final Four All-Tournament team.
Chris Paul and LeBron James are also both CAA clients, as the Daily News points out.
“When it comes to the Knicks and CAA … the Knicks are all in,” one rival NBA coach told the Daily News.
For now, with Calipari about to head out on the recruiting trail trying to solidify commitments from Muhammad, Noel and Bennett, his public position is clear.
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.