Hoops Hello: Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman

Submitted by Ace on April 19th, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Possesses excellent dunkface (via PennLive)

First reported by Sam Webb and confirmed by multiple sources, 2014 Allentown (PA) Central Catholic G Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman committed to Michigan while on his official visit this afternoon.

Abdur-Rahkman picked up heavy interest from the Wolverines as they prepared for the potential losses of Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III; once those two declared for the NBA Draft, MAAR's recruitment hit the fast track. He becomes the fifth member of Michigan's 2014 class, joining Kam Chatman, Ricky Doyle, Austin Hatch, and DJ Wilson.


Rivals Scout ESPN 247 247 Composite
3*, NR SG NR SG 2*, 64, #101 SG NR SG NR SG

As one would expect from a prospect picked up as a late-cycle contingency plan, MAAR flew under the radar of most of the recruiting services, with only ESPN even bothering give him a complete ranking—and they don't even list his weight. The other sites are in relative agreeance regarding his measurables; all list him at 180 pounds, with Rivals and 247 pegging him at 6'4" and Scout shaving off an inch.


Unsurprisingly, scouting reports on a largely overlooked prospect are hard to come by—there's not a single scouting-related article on him on Rivals, Scout, or 247. ESPN's evaluation was last updated in June 2013, so while it gives us a starting point, it doesn't include any progress MAAR made during his senior season [emphasis mine]:

He's extremely versatile with the size and length to offer minutes at any of the three perimeter positions, and is a match-up problem virtually anywhere on the court because he's capable of making plays for himself and others over top of smaller guards and has the speed, quickness, and handle to go by most bigger wings. He's equally versatile defensively where his size, length, and ability to cover the court might even be bigger weapons.

He's a dribble drive player on the offensive end, and not yet a consistent outside shooter. That flaw in his offensive repertoire is likely to be exposed much more at the next level when the game slows down and he's not able to get out in the open floor with the same frequency. Even at that, he's going to be much more effective in an up-tempo system at the next level.

Bottom Line:
He has a very intriguing combination of size, length, quickness, and smooth handle but he's going to have to continue to get more skilled on the perimeter in order for his game to translate as well to the college level.

The inconsistent jump-shooting is a concern for any guard coming in to play for John Beilein, though MAAR's drive-oriented game at the very least gives U-M a different type of player to put out there, especially if he lives up to his reputation as a defensive stopper.

The most recent, thorough analysis of Michigan's latest addition comes from UMHoops, which posted a scouting report on MAAR this week, as well as the video embedded later in this post. The whole thing is obviously worth your time; Dylan praises his transition game and passing ability, sees room for improvement in his shooting and ballhandling, and comes away with this conclusion:

Abdur-Rahkman might not be the traditional Beilein wing, but he would bring a lot of things to Michigan’s backcourt that are currently lacking. He looks like a natural fit to play the two-guard spot, but down the line he could potentially slide to the three or the one. Michigan’s inability to contain dribble penetration last season was no secret and Abdur-Rahkman might be able to shore up some of those concerns – especially down the line. He’s already physically mature (he’ll turn 20 in September) which means he could be ready to play at a college level, but also that he’s been able to bully younger players at the high school level.

That last bit means MAAR is probably closer to his ceiling than your average incoming freshman, which can be a benefit in the short-term but does add some concern for how much he'll improve over the long haul.

Sam Webb asked Abdur-Rahkman for a self-evaluation this week, and he had no issue noting the areas of his game that need improvement ($):

I’m more of a facilitator, get in the lane, drive and kick, find the big guys inside. I can play defense. I’m a good defender – perimeter. I can shoot a little bit…I need to get better. Dribbling better, but need to get better. Midrange is pretty good. 

Despite his scoring acumen, note that MAAR calls himself a facilitator first and foremost.

Coach/teammate evaluations are difficult to trust entirely for obvious reasons, but do at provide insight into how a prospect handles himself in the locker room, and Abdur-Rahkman comes in for high praise in that regard:

“He is a complete player,” [Central Catholic head coach] Dennis Csencsits said. “Not only does he lead us in scoring but he leads us in assist, he is a very good rebounder so he is a really well-rounded player, very smart, very savvy basketball player.”

Although he continues to excel on the court, Abdur-Rahkman’s teammate says the “friendly and outgoing” star has been their mentor.

“Muhammad has helped me become a better leader and a better teammate,” sophomore point guard Zay Jennings said. “Just learning some basketball [techniques] that he does, overall, he is just a good teacher and a good leader.”

As you'll see, MAAR was a scoring machine in high school, but the stats, film, and quotes show that he's an unselfish player, as well.


About those stats—they're quite impressive:

Barring a major surprise, Abdur-Rahkman will be named to the Pennsylvania all-state team next week [Ed: he was], making him the first player in Lehigh Valley history to be an all-state selection four times.

He also was a unanimous choice as The Morning Call's player of the year for the second consecutive year.

The 6-foot-4 swingman was the driving force behind one of the greatest seasons in Lehigh Valley basketball annals.

With Abdur-Rahkman averaging 23.6 points, 4.1 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game, Central Catholic became the first area boys team to win its first 29 games, sweeping the Lehigh Valley Conference and District 11 3A titles en route.

The dream season ended with a 60-50 loss to eventual state champion Neumann-Goretti, but few will ever forget this Central Catholic team or the talents of Abdur-Rahkman.

He finished with 2,136 points — the most in CCHS history and the sixth most in District 11 annals.

That article contains more background on MAAR and focuses, once again, on his humble demeanor and unselfish play. This quote from Abdur-Rahkman sums it up:

"The numbers don't mean much to me," he said. "I'm just glad we won four district titles. That was our goal. We put in a lot of hard work and we just got better each year. One day it will all hit me what we've accomplished but right now, hard work is what I want to be remembered for."


Before picking up the Michigan offer on his visit, Abdur-Rahkman held offers from Bucknell, Delaware, Drexel, George Mason, Lehigh, Robert Morris, and VCU, according to ESPN.


The UMHoops scouting video is a must-watch:

Brian posted his impressions on it earlier this week:

MAAR's shot selection here would be terrible except he's in high school and the shots he's getting off are probably better than wide open looks from a number of his teammates. And he puts down a lot of his terrible, terrible shots. It's the open ones, whether it's at the free throw line or generally, that seem to need work. As UMHoops notes, one of the games here features five threes from MAAR, which is a major outlier for a guy who hit 1.9 a game.

We could see some improvement in MAAR's shooting once the onus for creating most of the team's offense no longer falls on him.

Also, a four-second assessment of his athleticism reveals that...

...yup, he's athletic.


Abdur-Rahkman needs to develop on the offensive end, but he still might see the floor next season—his physical maturity should help him there. While the worries about Michigan's depth for 2014-15 have focused on the frontcourt, Jon Horford's transfer and the NBA losses have created a ripple effect that leaves the backcourt a little thin, especially at the two. While Caris LeVert will play the vast majority of those minutes, Zak Irvin—the presumed starting three—may have to play more minutes at the four than the two, especially if Mitch McGary decides to go pro.

That leaves MAAR as the only backup guard aside from Spike Albrecht and Austin Hatch, and it's unlikely Hatch is going to be ready to play after returning to the court this past season. I doubt Beilein used a scholarship on a 20-year-old freshman at a position in need of depth without plans to utilize him immediately; even with the iffy jump shot, MAAR should carve out a niche role as a defensive specialist who can get out and lead the break. How he's utilized from there will depend largely on the development of his offensive repertoire.


Michigan has one remaining open scholarship for next season. I'd be surprised if they took another recruit in the class. It's more likely they'll look to add a transfer if the right player shows interest, and if that doesn't happen they can pocket the scholarship for 2015-16, which currently has just one open spot—though that figure could grow given the distinct possibility Mitch McGary and Caris LeVert are NBA-bound by that time.

EDIT: Or I'm totally wrong, as Sam Webb just tweeted out the latest offer news:

This can mean a few things: the transfer front isn't looking so good, Beilein expects further attrition, or the coaches just really like Dawkins. We'll see.



April 19th, 2014 at 2:08 PM ^

The bad thing about getting a commitment from MAAR :Having to type his entire name into Google. For some reason Muhammad Ali goes to some other guy from the 60s.


April 19th, 2014 at 2:27 PM ^

Hopefully you won't mind me never fully learning your full name while continuously calling you "Mar" for 4-5 years. I have a hunch he's going to be a good one for us. Late adds to the class have turned out well lately (Spike, Caris)


April 19th, 2014 at 2:33 PM ^

I didn't know non-PGs were allowed to be shorter than 6'6".  

Seriously though, this is a good addition.  He's a bit different of a player that what we've had at the wing, which is not a bad thing.  He's billed as a great defender which will come in handy against teams with a top SG that we need to lock down or at least frustrate.  


April 19th, 2014 at 2:41 PM ^

BWAAAHAHAHA!!! Welcome to the premier football and new basketball school. Hit the road Izzo I hear the pistons are looking for a coach, strike it while the iron is hot.


April 19th, 2014 at 2:55 PM ^

I know that's all your opinion and you're entitled to that, but it's seems disingenuous when you say we're a better basketball school because of the recent past, but ignore the recent past when discussing football.  

All that aside, I'm sure MSU isn't too worked up that we got a commitment from a relatively anonymous recruit.  I think this is a solid pick up for us, but not one that will leave our rivals shaking in their boots.


April 19th, 2014 at 3:03 PM ^

Sorry I stand corrected you are absolutely right I am Ignoring the recent past on football But Staee is certainly not in a rebuilding mode in basketball as our football team is, if Carr were still here we would be looking at a new coach at Staee by now. But of course this is MY OPINION like you so cleverly stated but was unable to understand the rest of my post.


April 19th, 2014 at 3:07 PM ^

MSU is hardly behind us in basketball.  This season, we beat them in the regular season (twice), they beat us in the Big Ten Tourney and we made it equally far in the NCAA tourney.  We had the better season, but by small margin.  Their football team was an eschelon above ours last season, and they trounced us.  Who knows how the next few years will go, but let's ease up a little.

Franz Schubert

April 20th, 2014 at 7:15 AM ^

You must not have realized that, "The year before they finished ahead of us", is the same year Michigan made the Final Four, and almost won the national championship losing in the title game. You are selling Michigan a little short, MSU has not fallen off the map by any means however Michigan is 6-3 against them over the last 4 years. This was supposed to be the year MSU was to dominate and they still had an inferior season than Michigan.


April 19th, 2014 at 3:02 PM ^

Even remotely something to brag about? I'm frankly pretty meh on the kid and wanted 3-4 other targets instead but this staff has earned the benefit of the doubt.

I just hope this doesn't turn into another Max over Nance type situation

Young John Beilein

April 20th, 2014 at 8:12 PM ^

I like MAAR.  You're right this isn't something to beat your chest about since no one offered him, but the staff's ability to identify and develop talent is pretty much beyond question at this point.  I like MAAR because he is a winner, he appears to have a much better handle and feel for the game than Dawkins for example, and he has a Harvard offer.  Dawkins appears to be the better athlete and spot up shooter.

Transfers are risky because they often come in expecting to make the same type of contributions that they made at their previous schools, and with the talent we have, it probably aint happening.


April 19th, 2014 at 5:42 PM ^

You're a moron. Should I explain why? No, because if you're a kid then you'll learn on your own and won't listen to what I have to say anyway. If you're an adult I don't want to create more competition for myself by showing you the error of your ways and there is some semblance of entertainment from reading stupid posts like yours and realizing how much better I am than you. 


April 19th, 2014 at 3:08 PM ^

But this kid does NOT look very good. Why is everyone so exicted about this pick up? His tape is terrible...and to expect anything out of him next year to me is crazy. Have to trust the coaching staff will help the kid develop but I do not see this as a good signing. 

What are everyone's positive vibes based off of? Blind trust in the coaching staffs evaluation? If you look at all of our recent success stories...all of their high school tape looked hands down better than this kids. 



April 19th, 2014 at 3:11 PM ^

You can't just go off of a player's HS highlight tape.  They all show different stuff, they all have different competition levels, etc.  Clearly this is a lower-rated kid that we're bringing in to round out the class, so I don't expect him to generate the kind of excitement a blue-chipper like Chatman would.  The team needs role players too.


April 19th, 2014 at 5:50 PM ^

If the highlight tape isn't very good then what do they look like outside of that? Yikes! The poster above has all the right to post that and it makes sense. All I ever read on here when other highlight tapes come out is the exact opposite. It's how much you can glean from it and now you're trying to play devils advocate. The coaches had to reach for someone, a role player like you said, and this is who they reached for. How can people be in this perpetual cycle of coating everything with sugar? Evolve for God's sake. 


April 19th, 2014 at 6:40 PM ^

I don't think you can glean a whole lot from a highlight tape. They are a selection of plays from a players entire season or career. Sure, it gives you an idea of what a player can do at their best which can be useful, but not a lot more than that. It doesn't show what they're like at their worst, or how often they're at their best, and there are all kinds of other variables in place.

I don't personally think his highlights look bad, and I also don't know the above poster's experience in critiquing HS basketball tape. Of course he's entitled to his opinion. But if he's going to make a claim like that, he's should probably site something more specific about his tape than "it looked bad."


April 19th, 2014 at 3:52 PM ^

looked at the tape could you see passion for the game, coachability, basketball IQ, desire to be in Ann Arbor or any of the other qualities all of Michigan's coaches cite as having a large role in their success?

Blind trust would be what I gave Beilein when he brought Stu and Novak to Ann Arbor over some available guys that looked better on tape. I'd call your cynicism blind before second guessing Beilein now. That doesn't mean I think the kid will amount to anything more than a program plus whatever his role or playing time.