April 11, 2012

The nation's top player in the class of 2012, Shabazz Muhammad, can see the light at the end of his long recruitment process. The Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman product will make his much anticipated college decision on Wednesday night when he chooses between three finalists: Duke, Kentucky and UCLA.

Wednesday marks the beginning of the spring signing period for high school basketball players -- it runs through May 16 -- and there should be plenty of interest. A handful of top prospects remain on the board. No decision will be bigger than that of Muhammad.

When he began his high school career, Muhammad was simply hitting the gym and aiming for a college scholarship. Little did he know that he would ultimately be choosing from the bluest of college basketball blue-bloods.

"This feeling is great," Muhammad told Rivals.com. "I was just trying to get a college scholarship my freshman year. Now I'm here getting college scholarship offers from all of these great programs and the hard work has paid off for me."

Never one to shy away from a pivotal shot in a game-changing situation, Muhammad is experiencing a completely different type of pressure. He's developed close relationships with Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Kentucky's John Calipari and UCLA's Ben Howland, as well as each of their respective staffs.

All have turned up the heat during the final hours of his recruitment.

Having to tell two coaches -- and by extension, their fan bases -- that he's not coming is the part of the process that Muhammad dreads the most.

"That's definitely the hardest part," Muhammad said. "Especially knowing that I like all of these schools. If I could go to all three of these schools, I would. The relationships I have with Coach K, Coach Howland and Coach Cal, having to tell two of those guys no will be really hard for me."

On the eve of his decision, Muhammad discussed what intrigues him about each program, beginning with the Blue Devils.

"I think they have so many pieces in place to win a lot of games next year with Mason Plumlee coming back, along with Rasheed Sulaimon and potentially myself coming in," he said. "I don't think they have a real prolific scorer and that is what Coach K is telling me about them.

"That's where they see me able to step in and score for them from a lot of different areas now that Austin Rivers is gone. With the veterans they have coming back, I think we could do a lot of damage."

At Kentucky, Muhammad sees an abundance of talent coming in to help the 2012 national champions reload. He also sees a coach that will push him relentlessly.

"With the guys they have coming in with Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and possibly Nerlens Noel it could be a really good class and team," he said. "Coach Cal makes the team dynamic and I know he would push me in practices.

"The dribble drive is a great offense to run. I see a lot of room for me in that offense and I think that I could really get out and do damage in traffic."

Finally, Muhammad sees plenty to like at UCLA, a program much closer to his Las Vegas area home. He has been told by the Bruins that they would employ a different style of play if he opted to come to Westwood.

"With UCLA they've got Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams coming and then possibly Tony Parker," Muhammad said. "They've got a lot of bits and pieces there also. With Coach Howland and his style of play, I think I could do a lot of damage there too. The Pac-12 has been kind of a down conference and I think that if we all came in we could really make some noise right away.

"Coach Howland has been talking about playing a little more wide-open style with Kyle pushing the ball. He can really see the floor and they could change the style of play with him running things and the athletes they have there and coming in if I came."

All that's left for Muhammad to do now is to make his final decision. He doesn't expect to have his choice come to him in a dream, nor does he think he'll suddenly realize that a particular school is the right fit. Instead, he'll have one final meeting with his parents and then he'll inform the coaches at each school shortly before his announcement Wednesday night.

"It's going to be a pros-and-cons thing," Muhammad said. "We are going to sit down and really discuss everything about the schools. It's going to be a lot of how comfortable I am with the coach. I think that's the big thing for me. Next year I'm going to have to take on really trying to be a leader, and how comfortable I am with the coach and how well we communicate is going to be the biggest factor in my choice."

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