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From Showcase Star to Rising Star; Muhammad Emerging in Second Season

By Anthony Oliva | February 12, 2015

NEW YORK CITY, NY —┬áThirteen months ago, Minnesota’s Shabazz Muhammad was one of the big-ticket attractions in Reno, Nev. at NBA D-League Showcase. A lottery pick that had yet to carve out a role in the Timberwolves’ rotation in his rookie season, Muhammad was assigned to the Iowa Energy to get some extra seasoning.

On Thursday, Muhammad, selected to represent the USA in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, became one of the attractions at the NBA’s biggest weekend in New York City.

“It definitely gave me some confidence,” Muhammad said of his stint in the NBA D-League. “Growing up I was a good player in high school and college and then coming here I didn’t really play, but then I got a little confidence going to the D-League. So I really like how the D-League really prepared me for this year and I’m happy I went there to do what I did.”

In all, Muhammad played only a handful of games in the NBA D-League, but he called the experience a “wake-up call.” Last season with Minnesota, Muhammad averaged only 3.9 points and 1.4 rebounds in 37 appearances over the 82-game season. This season, in the same amount of appearances already at the All-Star Break, the UCLA product is putting up 13.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 23 minutes a night.

Muhammad also attributes weight loss the improvement in his game.

“Last year I couldn’t really get up like I wanted to and I wasn’t as quick as I wanted to be,” said Muhammad during All-Star media availability at the LIU Brooklyn campus. “Now I’m pretty quick and I can play either the 2 or the 3 position, so I think that’s a big thing for me.”

His teammates have noticed as well.

“He looked like two different people,” Minnesota big man Gorgui Dieng said of Muhammad from last year to this year.

“He’s buff now,” Minnesota guard Zach Lavine said with a smile.

For someone that battled weight issues and inconsistency just a year ago, Muhammad flipped the script and is now lauded for his aggressivess and energy on the court by his teammates, three of which join him as participants in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge.

“Shabazz brings everything to the team – rebounding, he can score with the best of him, he’s physical, competitive, gets out in transition,” said the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft Andrew Wiggins.

“He’s very active,”Dieng said. “He plays with a lot of energy and a lot of heart.┬áThat’s somebody you want to have on your team.”

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