Nevada duo is top target for nation's elite
Muhammad, Bennett may end up playing together in college
NOTE: Kentucky Recruiting Board and original interviews with Wildcat targets coming tomorrow morning. Don't forget to check back.
As the head coach at Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), Michael Peck is in the unique position of working in the same city in which both Shabazz Muhammad and Anthony Bennett currently play high school ball.
A handful of elite programs are targeting the two players, with Kentucky and UNLV in the mix for both.
So what would it mean if one of those programs – say, Kentucky – were to score a double-dip and land both players come springtime?
"Oh my God, amazing,” Peck told Fivestarbasketball.com on Wednesday. “It would be tremendous because they play different positions but both are physically ready for that next level. I mean, you look at both, their size and their physical makeup, and they're explosive athletes. A lot of guys that go to the next step have to get more time in the weight room and develop their bodies. These guys, their bodies are ready. They'll continue to get stronger but they're both ready for that next step.”
As always, Kentucky is in the mix for a "Who's Who" of elite players in the class.
Having already landed a three-man recruiting class of Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley and Archie Goodwin, the Wildcats are heavily involved with Muhammad, Bennett, Amile Jefferson, Ricardo Gathers and Devonta Pollard – all of whom are expected to sign in the spring.
Muhammad, the 6'6'' small forward out of Bishop Gorman, remains the No. 1 priority, and Kentucky coach John Calipari was in the stands at the recent City of Palms Classic in Florida to watch him. Assistant Orlando Antigua has made Muhammad a primary focus for the rest of the year.
“It’s great seeing him [Calipari in] the stands and watching him on TV,” Muhammad told Five-Star at City of Palms. “If he’s there watching you, that’s a blessing to have.”
Muhammad, who is also considering Duke, Kansas, Arizona, UNLV and UCLA, will participate this weekend in the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass. Bishop Gorman takes on DeMatha Catholic Monday at 1 p.m., in a game that will be nationally televised on ESPNU.
Then on Jan. 21, Muhammad and Bennett will go toe-to-toe when Findlay Prep and Bishop Gorman meet in another nationally televised game at Cox Pavillion at UNLV.
Hometown fans are hoping that UNLV can land one or both players, and are buoyed by the knowledge that UNLV just landed former Pittsburgh forward Khem Birch, who must sit a year before becoming eligible.
That move was not lost on Muhammad's father, Ron Holmes, either.
"Bazz wants to go to a program that has a chance to win a National Championship," Holmes told SNY.tv. “UNLV is putting the pieces together to be in that position. They are close to home and have a great style of play. Getting players like Khem Birch only strengthens UNLV in the eyes of Shabazz.”
Still, Holmes added Wednesday that, “'Bazz likes Kentucky very much. Nothing has changed.”
As for Kentucky's chances at Bennett, the 6-7 power forward recently trimmed his list to five schools, Kentucky, UNLV, Washington, Oregon and Florida.
“Cal was out two or three times in the fall during the evaluation period,” Peck said. “And it's not like he's just 30 minutes down the road. He's made the effort. When he came back from coaching with the Dominican team, he flew right into Vegas. It's not like he went to Kentucky and then came here. He came right from the Dominican and touched base with Anthony.
Still, Peck underscored that Bennett remains open and will take visits before deciding in April.
“I think he's going to start lining up those visits and start using those as that final measure for what he feels when he goes on those visits,” Peck said. “Once you step on that campus and you're there for that 48-hour period, you're going to have a good feeling, a great feeling, and then you can compare it to the others. That's obviously his next step.”
In the meantime, Kentucky fans can dream about adding the Vegas duo of Muhammad and Bennett to yet another fabulous haul.
“Jeez, with the two of them, that's maybe two of the better offensive weapons in the whole class,” Findlay assistant Todd Simon said.
“I think those two may be the best two offensive players in the class in terms of a matchup standpoint. Shabazz is a strong wing who can do a lot of things. And Anthony has unique size and strength as a player and can take advantage of just about any matchup.”
Harrison Sanford is a reporter for Fivestarbasketball.com. Follow him Twitter: @HarrisonSanford