Shabazz Muhammad, the top-rated college basketball recruit in the nation according to Rivals.com, is expected to announce tomorrow where he’ll be spending his (presumably brief) college career. The 6’6” small forward has narrowed his choices to three schools: Duke, Kentucky and UCLA.
Whether Muhammad will opt for the Blue Devils is far from a sure thing at this stage. If he does head to Durham, though, it will be one of the most welcome recruiting coups of Mike Krzyzewski’s illustrious career.
Duke is already guaranteed to lose two key contributors from last year’s squad, with Miles Plumlee graduating and Austin Rivers leaving for the NBA. Miles’ brother Mason, a junior, is also giving serious consideration to turning pro, which would leave Duke without a go-to scorer inside or outside.
That’s a hole Muhammad is well-equipped to fill. He’s a devastating finisher near the basket, enough so that he led all scorers with 21 points at the McDonald’s All-America game.
Muhammad’s presence would also be a valuable boost to a recruiting class that’s currently talented but (to put it mildly) small. Coach K only has one commitment in hand as of this writing, sharpshooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon.
Sulaimon’s three-point marksmanship—he also played in the McDonald’s All-America game, winning the three-point contest and scoring 18 in the game itself—will be a great fit in Coach K's offense, but one player can only do so much. Muhammad’s ability to attack the basket (not a specialty of any returning Blue Devils) would be a great complement to an offense loaded with spot-up shooters.
Lastly, adding Muhammad would ensure that Duke takes full advantage of the upheaval in the rest of the conference. Regular-season ACC champ North Carolina and tournament champion Florida State have both had their rosters gutted (UNC by the draft, FSU by graduation), and the addition of Muhammad would cement Duke as the team to beat in the conference (with or without the return of Mason Plumlee).
The 2011-12 season ended with one of Duke’s most embarrassing losses ever. 2012-13 is almost certain to be an improvement, but with Shabazz Muhammad in the fold, it could be a season in which Duke bounces back as a serious threat for a national title.