Gaels star rises fast but stays grounded

Halfway through his high school career, Shabazz Muhammad has arrived as a big-time prospect.

He is being courted by college basketball coaches from all over the country, and he’s ranked near the top of his class.

All he sees, however, is that he has a long way to go.

“I know I’ve got to stay humble,” he said. “I can always improve my game. I always try to stay in the gym and be a gym rat.”

Muhammad, who just completed his sophomore year at Bishop Gorman, has plenty of time to choose a college. And he’ll have plenty of elite programs to choose from when the time comes.

A year ago, Hoop Scoop ranked him No. 1 in the nation in the class of 2012. currently ranks him No. 4.

Where he will wind up in two years is the bigger mystery.

The 6-foot-5-inch shooting guard has received scholarship offers from Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Arizona, Louisville, Memphis, Southern California, UCLA and many others.

UNLV is there with the top contenders, he said, and Muhammad is well aware that Rebels coach Lon Kruger wants to keep him home.

“I really do like UNLV,” Muhammad said. “I’m getting a lot of calls. I’ve been getting a lot of scholarship (offers). I’m talking to the coaches and seeing what they have in store for me at their college and going from there.

”I think I am handling it pretty well.”

He has a valuable resource available 24 hours a day. His father, Ron Holmes, was a basketball star at Southern California in the mid-1980s.

“He’s a big asset. He tells me all the advice about the college coaches,” Muhammad said. “He’s been there, after four years at USC. I’ve been working with him a lot.”

Holmes was on the bench as an assistant coach Thursday morning as Muhammad and his Dream Vision 17s (Calif.) team suffered a 59-50 loss to the New England Playaz in their first game of the adidas Super 64 tournament at Rancho.

Muhammad scored 17 points but was far from satisfied.

“It was a really ragged performance for my team and me. We’ve got to step it up. I’ve got to be a leader for my team,” he said. “I’m disappointed right now, but we’ve got another one.

“I kind of let my team down by not scoring the ball as I wanted to, and I’m going to look to do that tonight.”

He promised better results in Dream Vision’s late game Thursday, and he delivered by scoring 30 points in a 73-49 victory over the Franchize Allstars (Texas).

Muhammad, a rangy athlete who can dunk with ease, practices relentlessly to improve his smooth left-handed jumper.

Some players seem to barely care whether they win or lose summer basketball games, which can turn into individual showcases.

Muhammad’s focus is singular.

“I’m real hungry to win games,” he said. “I want to win more.”

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