SAN JOSE, Calif. — The second one is coming. Out of his older brother’s shadow, Rashad Muhammad is emerging, minus the hype.
Hidden on a losing team at San Jose State, Muhammad is traveling a much different basketball path than the one taken by his brother, Shabazz, who went from high school phenom to Hollywood.
“I’m enjoying it,” Rashad said. “It’s been a journey. I had some success and I had some failures, you could say.”
On a personal note, his freshman year has been mostly a success. A 6-foot-6-inch shooting guard, Muhammad is the leading scorer for the Spartans, who have not won a Mountain West game in their first season in the conference.
Muhammad said he’s looking forward to facing his hometown team, and San Jose State (6-14, 0-8) is aiming to stop its skid when it hosts UNLV (13-7, 4-3) at 7 p.m. today at The Event Center.
The Spartans are off a 76-55 loss at Boise State, a game in which Muhammad got off only three shots and was held scoreless for the first time all season. He has started just once in 20 games, but led the team in scoring 11 times and averages 14.8 points.
He ranks 37th in the nation in 3-point field goals made (55), connecting on 43.7 percent of his 3s, and is the top free-throw shooter (73 of 87, .839) for San Jose State.
“Rashad has always been a tremendous shooter,” said Rebels coach Dave Rice, whose younger brother, Grant, coached the Muhammad brothers at Bishop Gorman High. “He played extremely well in the summer before his senior year at Gorman, and he had a terrific senior year. A lot of people were aware of him.
“No doubt, his older brother garnered a lot of attention, and for very good reason.”
When it was time to choose a college in April, Rashad Muhammad picked the Spartans instead of offers from Utah State and Wyoming. In no way did his courtship resemble the recruiting circus his brother entertained.
Shabazz Muhammad, ranked as the nation’s No. 1 prep player in his class for most of his four years at Gorman, was chased by Duke, Kansas, UNLV and several other elite programs before signing with UCLA for a one-year stay.
“That was fun to watch. He was one of the lucky guys who had the crazy recruiting process,” Rashad said of Shabazz, a Minnesota Timberwolves rookie who was the 14th pick in last summer’s NBA Draft.
“You could say I was a late bloomer. I think a lot of colleges started to pay more attention later in my senior year.”
As for what he learned from watching his brother’s recruitment, Rashad said, “Make sure to go where your heart really takes you.”
So, that was to San Jose State, where Dave Wojcik is in his first season after spending three years as Boise State’s associate head coach.
“It was definitely Coach (Wojcik) and his desire to build the program. We are on the same page,” Muhammad said. “I liked his intensity, and I think that’s what I needed to add to my game was intensity. That was holding me back from my potential.”
Wojcik is rebuilding with only one senior on his roster, and he’s encouraging his young guards to fire away. The Spartans are No. 3 nationally in 3-pointers attempted (522) and No. 7 in 3s made (187).
“Coach wants us to get out and run and get open shots. We do get a lot of 3-pointers up,” said Muhammad, on track to become the first freshman to lead San Jose State in scoring since the 1983-84 season. “Being a young team, we’ve got to attack more and get to the line.”
UNLV ranks second in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage defense, even after allowing Fresno State to make 11 of 28 3s on Saturday.
“It’s a dangerous team right now because of how many guys on the floor can make 3-point shots,” Rice said. “Coach Wojcik has them playing hard every night. It’s a good fit for Rashad.”
Muhammad, who scored a season-high 28 points in a 66-64 home loss to Colorado State on Jan. 8, has a handle on his team’s growing pains and the pressure of growing up with a high-profile brother.
“It’s definitely a little frustrating, but we’re trying to stay positive and keep our spirits up,” he said.
“I’ve been growing up hearing stuff, and people have certain expectations for me. But I don’t let that get to my head.”
■ NOTE — The Rebels lead the all-time series 31-4, but the teams have not met since 1997 when both were members of the Western Athletic Conference.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.