Bishop Gorman’s Shabazz Muhammad was hardly an unknown quantity entering the season.
The junior swingman had been a productive player for Gorman since stepping onto the court as a freshman.
But the numbers Muhammad posted in his first two seasons for the Gaels were nothing compared with what he did as a junior.
Muhammad averaged 25.1 points and 7.7 rebounds in leading Gorman to the Sunset Region title. For his efforts, Muhammad was named the Class 4A state player of the year by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“Everyone was kind of waiting to see if he would go to that next level,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “I think he did. He did a nice job for us throughout the year. He had some big games for us and did a great job in some of the big games.”
Muhammad’s numbers are even more impressive considering Gorman’s schedule. He had 32 points and 13 rebounds in an 89-86 double-overtime loss to Findlay Prep, currently ranked 10th by USA Today.
He added 31 points and eight rebounds when the Gaels beat then-undefeated Long Beach Poly (Calif.) 58-53 on national television. Poly is ranked fifth by USA Today.
Muhammad also had 92 points in three Sunset Region tournament games.
“Against Findlay, I felt like he was the best player on the floor,” Rice said. “The Long Beach Poly game stands out on ESPN, and (so does) the run he put through the Sunset playoffs.”
Muhammad also had games against local teams in which his minutes were limited because Gorman got ahead so quickly, but he still posted the same type of numbers.
The 6-foot-6-inch Muhammad is considered one of the top college prospects in the junior class. He’s being courted by most of the nation’s top programs, including Duke, North Carolina, Texas and Kentucky.
Muhammad has gone from a player who could score from 15 feet and in as a freshman to one who can score from just about anywhere on the floor.
“He’s spent hours and hours in the gym just working on his shooting,” said Rice, who noted that Muhammad shot better than 60 percent from the field. “He really had some pretty impressive shooting displays toward the second half of the year.”
Despite the fact that he’ll play on the wing in college, Muhammad has never been afraid to go inside, where he has a lethal post-up game.
“He’s one of those guys that doesn’t mind being a guy that can post up and take advantage of that,” Rice said. “His freshman and sophomore year, he lived inside. He just went in and did what was asked of him and really enjoyed it.”
Muhammad averaged 12 points and five rebounds as a freshman and pushed those numbers to 19.5 points and 10 rebounds as a sophomore.
But with a pair of college-bound players in Anson Winder (Brigham Young) and Johnathan Loyd (Oregon) on the team last season, Muhammand didn’t have to carry the load.
But he did that as the team’s most experienced player as a junior. And Rice said Muhammad is looking forward to continuing that role next season after the team’s disappointing 45-44 loss to Bishop Manogue in the state semifinals.
“This year a lot more was asked of him in taking on a leadership role,” Rice said. “He’s excited and already talking about next year and taking even more of a leadership role with some of the other seniors and trying to do something special next year.”