Humble brag alert: being a New Yorker, I was fortunate enough to land a free (floor) ticket for Tuesday night’s Legends Classic double-header at the Barclay’s Centre, which featured not only a tremendous Georgetown–Indiana overtime thriller, but some of the biggest prospects in college basketball in the UCLA–Georgia consolation matchup.
While UCLA’s Kyle Anderson and Georgia’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did their usual thing, it’s the newly eligible Shabazz Muhammad that really stuck out to me.
Not only does Muhammad have an NBA body, he seems to have an NBA mind, knowing when to attack the basket, when to get out on fast breaks, when to help on defense, and when he shouldn’t be shooting. In just his second game, Muhammad tallied 21 points on 6-12 shooting from the field, and going 8-11 from the free throw line, in what was seemingly a rough 28 minutes.
“I think he was more comfortable tonight and we are learning how to play with Shabazz for the first time,” said coach Ben Howland after the win. “We didn’t play with him all summer and then the same thing in a game situation until just yesterday, so it’s going to take some time but I thought he did a really good job, especially getting to the line, getting fouls, attacking the basket, running the floor.”
As impressive of a physical specimen as Muhammad is, I found it really impressive that he was able to play as many minutes in such an intense game despite not being able to practice or play with the Bruins up until Monday night (where he scored 15 points in his collegiate debut). It was surprising to see Muhammad hit the bench at the 5:07 mark in the second half with the game knotted at 49, but despite being visibly winded, he re-entered the game with just under two minutes left with a 1-point lead, and helped put the game away.
Muhammad hit three crucial free-throws, grabbed a big defensive rebound, and most notably, stole the ball from Caldwell-Pope when Georgia was still within three points at about the one-minute mark.
The steal was one of two on the night for Muhammad, who looked considerably better in man-to-man defense, where he was paired against Georgia’s best scorer in Caldwell-Pope, who hardly saw the ball when he was being manned-up.
Muhammad showed a knack for being in the right place at the right time Tuesday night, as well as making big plays at big times to help secure a win after being disappointed by the Hoyas the night before.
College basketball can be a waste of time for some players who have NBA-ready games, but Muhammad looks like the type of player who can shine individually but also excels within the team model, which could lead to a great college career for him.
The only question is, how long will that career last?
For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth