As a freshman, Democracy Prep point guard Najeeb Muhammad struggled so much that his coaches nicknamed him Tom, which was short for turnover machine.
After the Legacy Tip-Off Classic, Muhammad’s new nickname could be MVP or Scoring Machine.
Muhammad, now a junior, scored 22 points — including 12 points in the third quarter — to lead the Blue Knights to a 56-53 win over Cimarron-Memorial in the championship game of the Legacy Tip-Off Classic.
He was also named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“It makes me feel proud. I’ve been working hard since ninth grade,” Muhammad said. “I’ve had a lot of growth since then. To be honest, I used to play like trash. I grew up. I started to learn how to be a leader on the team and be a coach on the floor.”
Democracy Prep coach Trevor Diggs has been the beneficiary of Muhammad’s growth and has been impressed with how he has improved over the years.
“We have one of the best players, that I feel, at point guard,” Diggs said. “I told him that he had to attack them. … I expect him just to keep growing as a player. He works hard every day, and we expect him to keep being a leader.”
Muhammad sparked the run that gave the Knights a 20-12 scoring advantage in the third quarter, and then he came up big in crunch time after the Spartans cut the lead down from 12 points to one point.
In the final seconds, Cimarron’s George Tribble made two free throws to make the score 54-53 with 14 seconds remaining.
After a Democracy Prep turnover, Cimarron had a chance to take a lead. However, a 3-point shot was off the mark, and Muhammad was able to grab the rebound and draw the foul.
He hit both free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining to seal the win.
“They were trying to kill me by turning the ball over five times in the last minute.,” Diggs said. “My team works really hard. We always preach this, especially myself, we defended, we rebound. No matter how big they are — and they are way bigger than us — we have to defend and rebound.”
Akeemis Williams added 17 points for the Blue Knights. Jared Holmes, who finished with four points, was was named to the all-tournament team.
The Blue Knights — a Class 2A team — won the tournament loaded with 4A teams from Southern Nevada, which Diggs and Muhammad hope will spark his team to do some great things this season.
“It gives us a lot of confidence, but we already knew that we could come in and beat all of these 4A schools,” Muhammad said. “People always doubt us, they say you’re in 2A, we don’t play anybody, but now they see that we can play everybody. We can beat anybody we want to as long as we play hard every day.
“We have heart as a team. We felt like we could do anything as a team if we played hard and played together.”
Tribble scored 13 points to lead the Spartans, and teammate Karion Harrell added 10 points.
Democracy Prep 70, Mojave 50 — Muhammad scored a game-high 19 points to power the Blue Knights by the Rattlers in the semifinals.
Holmes added 16 points, Daniel Plummer had 14 points and Williams scored 10 for Democracy Prep.
Noah Sherrard had 15 points, and Chris Jackson scored 11 for Mojave.
Cimarron-Memorial 63, Centennial 48 — Ricky Singleton led all scorers with 19 points, and the Spartans pulled away in the second quarter en route to their victory over the Bulldogs.
Brian Washington had 16 points, and Harrell scored 15 for Cimarron, which led 37-20 at halftime after outscoring Centennial 24-6 in the second quarter.
Ishon Hardin led Centennial with 16 points.
Centennial 75, Mojave 49 — At Legacy, Aaryn Anderson and Savio Gines-Rivera each scored 13 points to lead the Bulldogs to a rout of the Rattlers for third place.
Steve Giles and Teon Taylor each added eight points for Centennial, which took control of the game with a 22-8 second-quarter run.
Sherrard scored 12 points to lead the Rattlers. Jackson scored 11 points, and Noah Achong added 10 points for Mojave.
Clovis East (Calif.) 56, Legacy 46 — At Legacy, D-Eric Marlowe scored 14 points, but the Longhorns fell to Clovis East.
Jayvon Lewis added 10 points for Legacy, which couldn’t overcome a 10-3 first-quarter deficit.
Arbor View 55, Cheyenne 47 — Jarrod Burks scored 17 points to lead the Aggies past the Desert Shields.
Favor Chukwukelo added eight points for Arbor View, which used a 13-2 second-quarter run to take control of the game.
Silverado 75, Rancho 57 — Trevon Martin and Caden Farley each scored 15 points to lead the Skyhawks past the Rams in the fifth-place game.
Martell Williams added 12 points for Silverado, which outscored Rancho 30-17 in the first half.
James Brown scored 20 points to lead the Rams, and teammate Jahlel Stevens added 18 points.
Canyon View (Utah) 63, Green Valley 56 — Canyon View’s Toby Potter went 5-of-6 from the free throw line in overtime to lift the Falcons over the Gators.
Potter finished the game with seven points. Brantzen Blackner led all scorers with 24 points for the Falcons. Joey Lambeth added 11 points for Canyon View.
Cameron Bower had 17 points to lead the Gators, and teammate Zachary Hammer added 16 points.
Oceanside Collegiate (S.C.) 60, Green Valley 53 — Bower scored a team-high 13 points in the Gators’ loss to the Landsharks.
Steven Fojas added eight points for Green Valley, which was outscored 22-13 in the third quarter.
Shane McCravy led Oceanside Collegiate with 18 points.
Aquinas (Calif.) 44, Rancho 40 — Devan Wright had 11 points, and Stevens scored nine in the Rams’ loss to the Falcons.
Brown and Da’leon Finley each had seven points for Rancho.
Nicholas Hopkins and Darien Addison each scored 12 points for Aquinas.
Crenshaw (Calif.) 62, Silverado 57 — Farley had 21 points, but the Skyhawks fell short to the Cougars.
John Francis had nine points, and Williams and Dajon Keeling each scored seven for Silverado, which led 31-23 at halftime.
Crenshaw’s Shedrick Lockeridge led all scorers with 26 points.
Arbor View 67, Legacy 60 — Donovan Yap led three Aggies in double-figures with 15 points in their victory over the Longhorns.
Burks had 14 points, and Chukwukelu scored 11 for Arbor View, which also got nine points from Adrian Armstrong.
Lewis led Legacy with 19 points. Cristian Pitts had 15 points, and Marlowe scored 11 for the Longhorns, who made 12 3-pointers.
Cheyenne 56, Clovis East (Calif.) 54 — Kavon Williams scored 17 points as the Desert Shields rallied late to defeat the Timberwolves.
Glen Taylor had 11 points, and Ke’Shawn Hall and Damion Bonty each scored eight for Cheyenne, which trailed 46-43 after three quarters.
Shawno Roberts paced Clovis East with 16 points.