As March approaches, so to do the conversations of end of the season accolades. In 2013, the narrative takes two very different paths.
First, the senior. Forward Solomon Hill has led his Arizona Wildcats team within an arm length of the PAC-12 Conference tournament No. 1 seed. Secondly, the freshman. Guard/forward hybrid Shabazz Muhammad has clearly out shine every other freshman in the PAC-12, even though his UCLA Bruins have had substantial problems this season.
Two players. Two very different futures.
Muhammad was considered the top high school prospect in his class, and hasn’t fallen short of expectations. The Bruins were content with fielding one of the prototypical one-and-done players, but with Muhammad’s talent, no one will look down on his choice to enter the 2013 NBA Draft. His athleticism and quickness are unstoppable, and his talent is unmatched, by any individual opponent. At 6-feet 6-inches and 225 lbs., Muhammad fulfills the perfect description of an NBA small forward at the age of 19.
It’s impossible to measure the ceiling of Muhammad’s talent as he continues to improve his talents with each and every game. He seems to fit into a similar role much like Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green. Muhammad can stretch the floor, run the transition offense, and handle the ball as securely as he would his on child. He ranks second in the PAC-12 in scoring with 18.4 points per game, while his .469 field goal percentage and .441 three point percentage make him one of the most well rounded forwards in college basketball.
Hill, on the other hand, has stuck around as the rock of the Wildcats’ rotation, while maintaing his reputation as a veteran force on both ends of the court. He was also highly touted coming out of high school, but didn’t receive nearly as much media attention as Muhammad did last year. Hill’s similar build resembles that of Muhammad, but he lacks the superior quickness off the dribble that Muhammad possesses. From the field, there are few better all around shooters than Hill; his .476 field goal percentage and .411 three point percentage matches him very closely with the Bruins forward.
Though both forwards will make significant contributions to their teams in the NBA next season, Muhammad deserves to be the outright winner of the 2013 PAC-12 Conference Player of the Year Award. Not only is Muhammad the most physically gifted player in the conference, his talents and statistics at such a young age are unmatched by any other player in the country. Muhammad has proven his ability to dominate every game, while Hill has struggled on occasion for the Wildcats. Though the Bruins aren’t having nearly the same success in the PAC-12 as Arizona, they still possess the best talent on the west coast.
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