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Bum ankle leads to sour ending to AAU season for Shabazz Muhammad

Top 2012 recruit struggles to tally 22 points as Dream Vision falls in adidas Super 64 championship game, 93-78, to Texas Assault

adidas Super 64 - Shabazz Muhammad

Sam Morris

Dream Vision’s Shabazz Muhammad is surrounded by media after playing the Atlanta Celtics Friday, July 22, 2011 during the adidas Super 64 tournament.

adidas Super 64

KSNV coverage of adidas Super 64 title game and Bishop Gorman's Shabazz Muhammad, July 26, 2011.

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The Rebel Room

Recruiting season hits its peak

This week on LasVegasSun.com Sports Talk - doubling as The Rebel Room podcast - Ray Brewer and Ryan Greene break down a busy recruiting month for Dave Rice and his UNLV men's basketball staff. The crazy weekend in Las Vegas included three big tournaments, and the the guys will fill you in on who the staff made sure to go watch, who has emerged as the primary recruiting targets and who could likely be the next commit - or two - in the class of 2012.

Shabazz Muhammad said it would have at least taken a broken foot to keep him out of Tuesday night's adidas Super 64 title game at Rancho High.

What about a sprained ankle that was swollen up just bigger than the size of a baseball? Well, he tried.

Muhammad — the 6-foot-6 Bishop Gorman star who is arguably the top recruit in the 2012 senior class — turned the ankle on Tuesday morning in a semifinal victory over Indiana Elite, went home afterward and spent roughly five hours treating it, trying to get right in time for the 5 p.m. championship tilt against Texas Assault.

"He iced it, treated it, put Tiger Balm on it … everything," his father, Ron Holmes, said. "We knew he might be ineffective, but he just wanted to give it a go. Once he started playing, he didn't want to come out."

Muhammad wasn't necessary detrimental to his Dream Vision squad, but he wasn't able to be the dominant force he consistently was throughout the weekend.

Dream Vision fell to its Dallas-based foe, 93-78, in front of a healthy crowd in Rancho's main gym. They led 44-38 at the break behind a strong 15-point first half performance from forward Winston Shepard. But the patient, balanced brand of ball that helped Texas Assault run off a string of upsets to reach the championship game took over. They outscored Dream Vision 55-34 in the second half behind explosive showings by guards Phillip Forte and Marcus Smart.

Smart, the tournament MVP, registered 29 points, 18 rebounds and five assists Tuesday night. The showing from the highly-touted, 6-foot-4 guard from Flower Mound, Texas, was complemented by a 20-point night from Forte, who scored 15 of those in the second half.

As for Muhammad, he was visibly limited.

With a physical advantage over almost everyone he faced in the tournament, he strung together several 30-point games mostly on drives to the hole and free throws.

After spraining the ankle, he posted a picture of the swollen joint on Twitter, and one look at it made it seem nearly impossible for him to play at that same level just a few hours later. That turned out to be the case.

The left-handed Muhammad simply could not burst off of his right foot, struggling to finish looks in near the rim from lower angles than normal.

He adjusted his game and was left to rely on outside shots, but he went only 2-of-6 from 3-point range. His 22 points on the night came off of patchy 8-of-22 shooting.

"I just wanted to help my team win, even if my performance wasn't that good," Muhammad said. "I had to shoot more. I wasn't as quick as I usually am. I was slow. I couldn't jump off of that foot or explode off of it, so I just tried to get my mid-range shot going and play defense for my team."

Muhammad swished a corner 3-pointer to open the second half, and after a Texas Assault bucket, Shepard added a deuce, putting Dream Vision up by nine at 49-40.

Minutes later, Smart and forward Nick Banyard combined on a quick 9-0 run that put the Assault up 59-52 — a lead they would never relinquish.

While Shepard disappeared in the second half, Muhammad remained streaky. As the game got out of hand in the final few minutes, he had no desire to sit and watch.

"I didn't think he was going to be able to finish this one, but he just wouldn't come out of the game," Holmes said. "We gave it a go, but he was pretty much ineffective."

Of course, a bad performance on a bum ankle won't devalue Muhammad's stock at all. It came in front of several coaches who hung around for the end of the Super 64 — more than usual, in fact. In attendance was Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski, Kansas assistant Danny Manning, three coaches from UNLV — Dave Rice and assistants Justin Hutson and Heath Schroyer — and many more.

And as soon as calling Muhammad is permitted, they'll likely have the phone in his house ringing off of the hook.

With his AAU season over, Muhammad can now focus on listening to them.

Holmes said Muhammad will be shut down for a bit to rest up. He'll try and heal in time to participate in the adidas Global Experience in Los Angeles, running Aug. 5-8. It's the final stop on the adidas Nations 2011 tour. Finally, he plans on participating in the Boost Mobile Elite 24 in Venice Beach, Calif., Aug. 26-27.

After that, it's nothing but recruiting, school and his upcoming senior season.

As of right now, Muhammad said his unofficial list includes — in no particular order — UNLV, Kentucky, UCLA, Duke, Texas, Memphis, Texas A&M and a few others.

Expect the entire process, no matter how long it lasts, to be intense.

"They're going to be calling, seeing what I want to do for my (five) official visits, so I'm going to look at that and go from there," he said. "I was worried about the AAU circuit, and now I'm going to focus on colleges."

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