Friday, Dec. 9, 2011 | 10:03 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer discuss the Bishop Gorman football team's third straight state championship and glance at the basketball season on this abbreviated edition of the podcast.
When Bishop Gorman High basketball player Shabazz Muhammad closed the first quarter Friday against visiting Durango with a pair of breakaway dunks, he couldn’t help noticing how a group of fans sitting near the basket reacted after the plays.
The 6-foot-6 senior Muhammad, who is the consensus top prospect for the class of 2012 and a primary recruiting target for hometown UNLV, brought chants of “hometown hero” after the sequence of highlight-reel plays.
It was the Gorman team’s season opener, and like every local major event Muhammad had played in the past year, supporters of the scarlet and gray coordinated an effort on social media to attend. Their hope on the recruiting trail is simple: to show Muhammad that staying home for college, even if it’s for one year, is a viable option.
Muhammad scored 10 of his game-high 30 points in the first quarter and Gorman was on cruise control most of the night in a 93-53 victory. In the first quarter, Muhammad outscored Durango 10-6 — with each basket igniting a new chant from the roughly 20 Rebel fans in attendance.
“I appreciate them coming out here. It was a great atmosphere in general,” Muhammad said. “The Rebel fans came out here and spent their time coming to watch me play. I appreciate that.”
Muhammad added roughly 15 pounds of bulk in the off-season, using the strength against Durango to score a majority of his points on the inside or with dunks. He had a trio of 3-point plays — when he was fouled while attempting a dunk, and was still able to score despite the contact.
“It is a big difference (with him) being so much more physical than people out there,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “We are trying to get him to be a complete player, which is what he is doing. That is his main focus this year. Rebound, hitting the open guy, and filling the lane and defending. He did a good job of that tonight.”
Muhammad wasn’t the lone Gorman player UNLV fans were interesting in seeing.
Demetris Morant, a senior forward who signed with the Rebels last month, finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Morant had two blocks on Durango’s initial possession of the game and altered field goal attempts all evening.
“It just made me want to play harder,” Morant said of the early blocks
And, like everybody in the Gorman gym, he would love to see Muhammad at UNLV. “That would be huge for us,” he said smiling.
Gorman led 23-6 after the first quarter, including Stanford signee Rosco Allen connecting on a pair of jumpers in showing his range. Allen, who was limited with foul trouble, finished with nine points.
“(Allen) is doing a great job pushing the ball and running the floor,” Rice said.
Gorman led by double-digits midway through the first quarter and never stopped applying the pressure. The Gaels made 64 percent of their shots, including Muhammad connecting on 13-of-19 attempts. His brother, junior guard Rashad Muhammad, also scored in double figures with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
“I wasn’t nervous, but you are always a little queasy just (not) knowing how those first five minutes are going to go,” Rice said. “But we made some jump shots, we ran the floor and got a couple of dunks, and that got us out to an early lead. I was really happy with the way the guys started the game.”
Freshman center Stephen Zimmerman had eight points, four rebounds and two blocks in his debut, playing 11 productive minutes and showing he’ll be a regular-contributor in the rotation. Zimmerman, despite playing in his first varsity game, already has several scholarship offers — including one from UNLV.