Naim Muhammad of North Point gives oral commitment to play at Shepherd University


North Point senior Naim Muhammad, shown here celebrating the team’s 2011 Maryland 4A state title, has orally committed to Shepherd University. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

As his final high school basketball postseason crept closer, North Point senior Naim Muhammad wondered if a strong closing act could deliver the Division I scholarship offer he’d long coveted. In the end, the 6-foot-4 senior forward decided he didn’t want the uncertainty to affect his team’s push for its second state title.

Muhammad gave an oral commitment to Shepherd University on Wednesday, accepting a partial scholarship offer to attend the Division II school in West Virginia a few days after returning from an official visit.

“If you have a bad game [and are uncommitted], you sort of feel the pressure or stress about it,” said Muhammad, who averages 15.6 points per game for the fourth-ranked Eagles. “You need to be able to put it in the past and move forward. Now I don’t have to worry about how that [bad] game effects how a certain coach feels about me or anything like that.”

Muhammad, who has averaged double-figure scoring the past three seasons for the perennial SMAC power, listed a handful of Division I schools that had contacted him in recent months, including Lafayette, Hampton and Morgan State. But he’d yet to land any offers until Shepherd came through in late December. The Rams began recruiting the forward last summer and Coach Justin Namolik attended North Point’s 94-43 win over Lackey on Dec. 10, a few weeks before extending the offer.

Last weekend, Muhammad attended Shepherd’s loss to Concord University and explored the campus on an overnight trip. By midweek, he was ready to give his oral commitment. He joins guard Marquis Wright, who will play at Loyola (Md.), and forward Matt Bonds, who signed with Divison II St. Michael’s (Vt.), on the list of North Point seniors with scholarships to play at the next level.

“I just connected real good with the coaches and players,” Muhammad said. “I felt like Shepherd would be the best place for me to go next year.”

Now Muhammad can train his focus on North Point’s bid for their third straight state tournament berth. He helped the Eagles win their first state title in 2010, and last year, they fell in the state semifinals to Eleanor Roosevelt.

This year, the team earned the No. 1 seed in the Maryland 4A East region and will kick off the playoffs against the winner of an opening round game between South River and Glen Burnie.

“As it gets closer, we’re getting anxious to get to the big stage and prove ourselves,” Muhammad said, “but we’ll try to take it one game at a time and trust everything will take care of itself.”

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Eric Detweiler · February 18, 2013