Wednesday, April 14, 2004

UC set for guard to commit

Muhammad tells coach he plans to play for Bearcats this season

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The University of Cincinnati appears poised to land a junior college point guard who might help plug the gaping hole in the Bearcats' offense.

Jihad Muhammad, from Plainfield, N.J., and San Jacinto (Tex.) Junior College, visited the UC campus last weekend and is expected to sign a letter-of-intent with the Bearcats today, the first day of the late signing period.

"He had a very good visit up to Cincinnati," San Jacinto coach Scott Gernander said Tuesday. "He seemed to enjoy it. I talked to him today and asked what he was going to do and he said he was going to sign with Cincinnati."

Muhammad, 6-foot, 180 pounds, averaged 16.8 points and 5.6 assists this past season. As a freshman, he led San Jacinto to the junior college national championship game. He made an oral commitment to Baylor near the end of last year, but decided to visit UC after coach Bob Huggins asked Gernander about him.

NCAA rules prohibit coaches from commenting publicly about a recruit until he signs a letter-of-intent.

UC, which has two scholarships available for next year, is not expected to sign anyone else today. The late signing period runs through May 19.

"There are still some thoughts about what we may or may not do," said Andy Kennedy, UC's recruiting coordinator. "We're still recruiting players for the class of 2004. If we use the last one, it would be on an interior player."

UC signed two players to letters-of-intent last fall. Roy Bright, a 6-6 forward Mt. Zion (N.C.) Christian, was ranked No. 35 among high school seniors by Clark Francis of the Hoop Scoop recruiting service.

Vincent Banks, a 6-2 shooting guard from Laurinburg (N.C.) Institute, was ranked No. 11 among prep school players by Francis.

Muhammad will have the inside track as the Bearcats' starting point guard next season.

The UC coaches tried unsuccessfully to convert junior college transfer Nick Williams from shooting guard to point guard last year. When that didn't work, they turned to forwards James White and Armein Kirkland to bring the ball up court and get the team into its offense.

Both played well at times, but it was clear in the NCAA Tournament that neither was the answer the UC coaches were seeking.

Muhammad's presence in the lineup would enable Williams to play shooting guard primarily and fill in at the point.

It would also allow White and Kirkland to settle into their natural positions.

Junior Chadd Moore, a highly-regarded point guard when he entered UC three years ago, has been bothered by a sore back, but could also be in the mix if he stays healthy.



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