By Matt Norlander
The odds Memphis lands No. 1 overall 2012 recruit Shabazz Muhammad aren't very good. Tigers fans won't want to hear that, but it's the truth. There are a lot of big-time schools, plus the tug of his hometown team, UNLV, involved right now.
Nevertheless, Josh Pastner is a hell of a recruiter. That's why he's still in the mix, and if anyone can get it done from a perceived, big disadvantage, he can. For a minute there, though, Memphis' recruitment of Muhammad didn't look on the up and up.
Fortunately for Pastner and Co., they're no longer in hot water over the recruitment of a player that could one day wind up as a No. 1 overall NBA draft pick. Turns out, an interview Muhammad gave to DevilsIllustrated.com (that's a Duke site, yes) tipped off the NCAA about what Memphis may or may not have been doing outside the rules of play. Kyle Veazey, the great new writer for the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, wrote the story over the weekend.
Muhammad's claim that the Tigers were "calling and calling and calling" prompted a question from the NCAA's Basketball Focus Group, an arm of the enforcement division formed in 2008 to gather information and explore potential violations in the sport. ... But that wasn't all the BFG asked the U of M last year. It asked the school to explain what it knew about how Muhammad paid for the plane ticket for his unofficial visit to Memphis. It asked about Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe. It asked for information about other prospects who went on an unofficial visit.The unofficial visit is something we can really get into detail at another time; how so many of these players are getting money to fly to far-off colleges is a scandal ripe and waiting to be exposed. In Muhammad's case, his ticket was paid for by a man named Tyrell Jameson and was found to be OK. The report also stated Memphis reported six secondary violations last season. Sounds bad, but it's really commonplace and looks to be inconsequential.
As for the calls, Memphis is in the clear because Muhammad's father, Ron Holmes, is an AAU coach. Since Muhammad wasn't yet a senior in high school, there are strict restrictions (restrictions that need to be eradicated by the NCAA as soon as possible) on when coaches can call a player or his family. Since Holmes coaches, though, a loophole is there for teams to contact him about general, vague reasons. Like wanting information about players on his team and guys he's coached against.
Memphis was perfectly in the right to do it, and if no one was else was then they slipped behind in that area of Muhammad's recruitment. The phone-call rule scares again, though. Coaches, programs and the NCAA would be better served if this barbed wire was taken away from playing field in recruiting.
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