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April 10, 2012

Muhammad nears final college decision

MORE: 2012 Rivals150 | Team rankings

The nation's top player in the class of 2012, Shabazz Muhammad, can see the light at the end of his long recruitment process. The product of Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman will make his much anticipated college decision on Wednesday night when he chooses among his finalists: Duke, Kentucky and UCLA.

Wednesday marks the beginning of the spring signing period for high school basketball players - it runs through May 16 - and there should be plenty of interest with a handful of top prospects still looking to make their decisions.

No decision will be bigger than that of Muhammad.

When he began his high school career, Muhammad was simply hitting the gym and aiming for a college scholarship. Little did he know that he would ultimately be choosing among the bluest of the college basketball bluebloods.

"This feeling is great," Muhammad told Rivals.com on Tuesday. "I was just trying to get a college scholarship my freshman year. Now I'm here getting college scholarship offers from all of these great programs and the hard work has paid off for me."

Never one to shy away from a tough shot in a pressure-packed situation, Muhammad is experiencing a completely different type of pressure now. He's developed close relationships with Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Kentucky's John Calipari and UCLA's Ben Howland, and each of their staffs.

All have turned up the heat during the final hours of his recruitment.

Having to tell two coaches - and by extension, their fanbases - that he's not coming is the part Muhammad dreads the most about making a choice.

"That's definitely the hardest part," Muhammad told Rivals.com. "Especially knowing that I like all of these schools. If I could go to all three of these schools, I would. The relationships I have with Coach K, Coach Howland and Coach Cal, having to tell two of those guys no will be really hard for me."

On the eve of his decision, Muhammad discussed what is intriguing about each program, beginning with the Blue Devils.

"I think they have so many pieces in place to win a lot of games next year with Mason Plumlee coming back, along with Rasheed Sulaimon and potentially myself coming in," Muhammad said of Duke. "I don't think they have a real prolific scorer and that is what Coach K is telling me about them.

"That's where they see me able to step in and score for them from a lot of different areas now that Austin Rivers is gone. With the veterans they have coming back, I think we could do a lot of damage."

At Kentucky, Muhammad sees more talent coming in to rebuild the 2012 national champions. He also sees a coach that will push him.

"With the guys they have coming in with Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and possibly Nerlens Noel it could be a really good class and team," he said. "Coach Cal makes the team dynamic and I know he would push me in practices.

"The dribble drive is a great offense to run. I see a lot of room for me in that offense and I think that I could really get out and do damage in traffic."

Finally, Muhammad sees plenty to like a little closer to his Las Vegas home in Westwood and has been told by the Bruins that they would employ a different style of play if he made his way there.

"With UCLA they've got Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams coming and then possibly Tony Parker," Muhammad said. "They've got a lot of bits and pieces there also. With Coach Howland and his style of play, I think I could do a lot of damage there too. The Pac-12 has been kind of a down conference and I think that if we all came in we could really make some noise right away.

"Coach Howland has been talking about playing a little more wide-open style with Kyle pushing the ball. He can really see the floor and they could change the style of play with him running things and the athletes they have there and coming in if I came."

Now, all that's left for Muhammad to do is make his final decision. He doesn't expect to have his choice come to him in a dream and he doesn't think he'll suddenly decide that a particular school is the right place for him. Instead, he'll have one final meeting with his parents to go over things and then he'll tell coaches at each school shortly before his announcement Wednesday night.

"It's going to be a pros-and-cons thing," Muhammad said. "We are going to sit down and really discuss everything about the schools. It's going to be a lot of how comfortable I am with the coach. I think that's the big thing for me. Next year I'm going to have to take on really trying to be a leader, and how comfortable I am with the coach and how well we communicate is going to be the biggest factor in my choice."



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