Flip Saunders and his Timberwolves scouts definitely didn’t select Shabazz Muhammad with the 14th overall pick in the NBA draft on the basis of his performance for UCLA against the Gophers in the NCAA tournament last season.
The 6-6 Muhammad failed to score in the first half of that game as he missed all seven shots he took, and the result was that the Bruins trailed the Gophers by 10 points at halftime.
He did warm up in the second half, scoring 20 points, but the Gophers won 83-63 and on the basis of his performance that day he didn’t merit even a second-round selection.
There were also reports of off-the-court issues, including a three-game NCAA suspension.
However, agent Bill Duffy, a Gophers basketball player from 1977 to ’79 who was recruited out of California by Saunders when Saunders was doing recruiting for the Gophers coaching staff, said most of the criticism of his client Muhammad has been blown out of proportion by the media.
“Most of what has gone on he was oblivious to, because he is a young guy,” Duffy said. “You’ll get a feel for him, the people here and the community here in Minneapolis will get a very good feel for him. I think he’ll be a favorite of the fans once they get a chance to know what kind of person he is.”
Duffy also believes that Muhammad, who was the No. 1-ranked high school senior in the country by Rivals.com for the class of 2012, is very underrated as a basketball player.
“In this draft I think he went later than he probably should have,” Duffy said. “I think the Wolves got a steal because he’s a ready-made scorer and he can score in the NBA because of his size and his strength. I think he’ll be a sleeper and a contender to be one of the top three or four rookies this year.”
Duffy, an outstanding guard in college, describes Muhammad as having an extremely versatile game.
“He’s a very unique player. Just because he attacks the rim like no one I have ever seen,” Duffy said. “He goes to the basket like LeBron James. I’m not saying he’s LeBron James, but he has that veracity to attack the iron. He can finish. He’s just a very aggressive, Type-A scorer.”
Duffy said Muhammad wanted to play here, adding he is confident Muhammad will be in the rotation right away.
“I expect that for sure,” said Duffy, who believes Muhammad can play both shooting guard and small forward.
Asked to compare Muhammad with former Gophers players, Duffy said: “He has the body of James Jackson. He could finish like Ray Williams around the iron.”
Duffy believed Muhammad could have gone anywhere from No. 7 to No. 20 in the draft, “but you really want your client to be in the right situation, and this turned out to be the perfect fit. This is where he wanted to play because he wants to play with a point guard like [Ricky] Rubio who passes the ball.
“He can shoot it, he can shoot. He can score, he can put it in the basket,” Duffy said.
Kill likes redshirts
I asked Gophers football coach Jerry Kill if there were any surprises from the redshirts of last season during spring practice.
“You know, Jack Lynn [a linebacker from Lake Zurich, Ill.] has really had a nice spring,” Kill said. “He jumps out at me. Nick Rallis did a nice job. He ended up turning an ankle and missed some of the spring, but Nick did some good things. He was redshirted.