PORTLAND, Ore. – Last year's trip to the Hoop Summit was time well spent for NBA scouts as six members of the United States Select Team – Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Austin Rivers, Bradley Beal, Marquis Teague and Tony Wroten – are projected lottery picks in June's draft. This year's American team, however, brought a collective groan by a room full of NBA general managers and scouts during practice at the Portland Trail Blazers' facility on Friday.
One longtime scout said it's the least talented group since the Hoop Summit, which pits the top U.S. seniors against elite international teens, began in 1995. The U.S. team will have another chance to change minds Saturday night while playing against the world team. So far the only American prospect who has elicited excitement has been Shabazz Muhammad, who is currently ranked No. 1 on the Rivals 2012 prospect ranking.
"Shabazz is by far the best player here," one Western Conference scout said of the senior swingman from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High. "It's not even close. He's the only one who can play in the NBA tomorrow."
Said one Eastern Conference general manager: "He's a much better shooter than I thought."
The list of universities that Muhammad will consider attending in the fall is down to three: Kentucky, Duke or UCLA. He said he will return home Sunday and deliberate with his parents before deciding Tuesday.
The 6-foot-6, 215-pounder said he has been getting sales pitches from Kentucky players Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb after they won the NCAA national championship on Monday. One source said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has given Muhammad a strong sales pitch.
There's a perception that UCLA is the front-runner. The 2012 Naismith Boys High School Player of the Year said don't believe it.
"Kentucky is up there," said Muhammad, who averaged 29.4 points and 10.1 rebounds this past season. "How can you not be attracted to Kentucky? They are run-and-gun.
"With Duke, Coach K and they have [U.S. teammate] Rasheed [Sulaimon] coming in and a real good recruiting class. The rumors are going to always consume. But I'm just going to look at the schools I really like which is Duke, Kentucky and UCLA and go from there."
Muhammad was disappointed that the NBA's new CBA wouldn't allow players to enter the draft out of high school. He said he would've seriously considered entering this year's draft if he could.
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Part of the attraction to Kentucky is coach John Calipari has produced six "one-and-done" players drafted in the first round since 2010 while in Lexington, including top pick John Wall. Calipari also coached Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans at the University of Memphis before they entered the draft after one year. Duke recently has produced such prospects as Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 pick in last year's draft, and Rivers, who has entered the draft.
With a solid freshman season under his belt, it wouldn't be a surprise if Muhammad turned pro a year from now.
"I am going to college to try to win a national championship," Muhammad said. "I think if I do what I have to do in college then the one-and-done will come at the end of the day."
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