It is decision day for the top two college basketball recruits in the 2012 class. Both Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel will announce which college they will attend (play hoops at for a year) tonight at 6:30 p.m. (CST) on ESPNU’s Signing Day special. Both players have narrowed their list down three schools and will absolutely be instant game-changers at the college level. Here is a breakdown of how the 6-6 wing Muhammad can impact his three finalists; Duke, Kentucky, and UCLA.
DUKE BLUE DEVILS: The Blue Devils appear to be the long shot in the Muhammad sweepstakes. After losing Austin Rivers to the NBA Draft, Duke could certainly use another top level talent like Muhammed. However, Coach K already returns an experienced nucleus in the backcourt with Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, Tyler Thornton, and Quinn Cook as well as the addition of McDonald’s All-American Rasheed Sulaimon. Adding Muhammad would make the rich even richer in Durham and possibly turn Duke into the preseason #1 for 2012-2013. The Blue Devils are also still in the running for McDonald’s All-Americans Tony Parker and Amille Jefferson, so if they were able to land Muhammed AND Parker or Jefferson, WATCH OUT!
Perhaps the biggest impact Muhammad would have on the Duke roster is that the would be a legit small forward and not have to use a three-guard line-up like they primarily put on the floor this past season. Defensively, it put the Blue Devils at a disadvantage because they lacked a player with the size or strength to defend somebody like Harrison Barnes. Muhammed would be that guy for Coach K.
KENTUCKY WILDCATS: Although none of them have officially declared, everyone is assuming that the Wildcats will lose all five of their underclassmen starters to the NBA Draft. If that is the case, that leaves Kyle Wiltjer as the only returning player who saw decent minutes last year. UK does add N.C. State transfer Ryan Harrow who will take over at the point along with three highly-touted freshmen; Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, and Willie Cauley.
Getting Muhammad to ink his national letter of intent would give John Calipari that next superstar recruit that could once again push the Wildcats over the hump. Noel, Jefferson, and Anthony Bennett also have Kentucky on their final list meaning Muhammad could be the first domino to fall in UK’s re-loading process. If Muhammed and Noel both choose to join Big Blue Nation, the ‘Cats will likely be the preseason #1.
UCLA BRUINS: Ben Howland already scored one huge recruit McDonald’s All-American point forward, Kyle “Slo-Mo” Anderson. Adding Muhammad alongside Anderson would immediately vault the Bruins to a legit top-ten team and Pac-12 favorite. Anderson’s unique ability for a 6-8 player to create for his teammates would mesh perfectly with Muhammed’s strength and explosiveness at the basket.
UCLA returns a lot of talent in their frontcourt with the Wear twins and Joshua Smith (if he can get his weight/conditioning in order), and are still in the running for uncommitted McDonald’s All-American Tony Parker. It is the backcourt that has been an Achilles Heel the past couple of years. With Anderson, UNC transfer Larry Drew, top 100 incoming freshman wing Jordan Adams, Tyler Lamb, Norman Powell, AND Muhammad… the potential is certainly there for a special mix of talent that could resurrect a program in dire need of returning to the top of the mountain.
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.