Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman is the latest-signing and the coolest-named incoming Michigan basketball freshman in the class of 2014. He is also this offseason’s first of our yearly “Getting to know” interviews with the incoming recruiting class. Abdur-Rahkman’s recruitment was hasty but effective — Michigan began recruiting him a couple months ago as an option in the likely event both Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III left for the NBA. After both did, Abdur-Rahkman was brought to campus for an official visit, where he committed on the spot. We spoke with Abdur-Rahkman for an extended interview on Monday. You can read the full transcript below.
How does it feel to be a Michigan Wolverine?
It feels great. I never thought I would be a Michigan Wolverine growing up, watching them play and stuff. but it definitely feels great.
Could you imagine yourself four months ago being in the position you are now?
No, I couldn’t have imagined it. Mostly because I was focused on the season and not really Michigan-caliber teams were coming in and trying to talk to me. It’s definitely surprising.
Give me the play-by-play of your official visit to Michigan last weekend.
I met with a lot of academic people and they basically showed me around the campus multiple times. I got familiar with the players. They just told me about their style of play and how they play. That’s about it, really.
Which players were you able to meet with and talk to?
I talked to just about all of them, but my player host was Caris LeVert. He seems like a good guy. Definitely fun to be around and laid back. They’re all good people so it felt like a good fit.
Tell me what it was like receiving your offer during the visit.
(The coaching staff) showed me their style of play, and then they had a video of how I would fit in, and it was a video of me. And after that, they offered me the scholarship. All of the coaches were there.
What were you looking for in a school as you were being recruited?
Great academics, good people to be around and a good coach. That’s about it.
Why did you choose Michigan?
I’ve always grown up and watched them play with my brother — that’s his favorite college team. It was just one of those things where it felt right. As soon as I got there and was around the people, I knew that’s where I wanted to be.
How did your brother get to be a fan of Michigan growing up in Pennsylvania?
We’re from Pennsylvania, and he just fell in love with the Fab Five. And ever since then, he was just a Michigan fan.
How do you fit into what Michigan does?
They showed me that I could be the two in the offense. They have to be a scorer and a creator. They just showed me clips of how it would translate to the college level and how I play.
How comfortable are you in the pick-and-roll?
It definitely feels comfortable. My high school coach actually runs a more basic version of their offense. So it was kind of a good thing that we ran their kind of offense.
Are you relieved that the recruiting process is over or were you able to have some fun with it?
In the beginning, you kind of have fun with it, but in the end, when everyone wants you and they want you to come on a visit and commit right away, it’s definitely stressful. So I’m glad it’s over. Relieved.
Were you surprised you flew under the radar the way you did in high school?
Yeah. But it was always like that ever since my freshman year because the area outside of Philly — we’re like an hour away from Philly — we don’t get a lot of credit for our good players. There’s a lot of good players around here but we don’t get a lot of credit because we’re not from Philly.
Are you going into this trying to prove people wrong?
I definitely have a chip on my shoulder. I want to show everyone I can play. But I’m a team player, so it’s not like I’m going to go up there and score all the points or anything like that. I’m just going to continue to be a team player and hopefully we continue to win.
You’re pretty old for your class.
Yeah. I started (school) late. And then after a while I reclassified in middle school and that’s it.
Michigan fans are pretty excited about landing a player named Muhammad Ali. What is the back story to your name?
My dad definitely named me after the boxer. That was his role model growing up, someone he looked up to. He definitely named me after him.
You’ve been described as a dribble-drive player working on your shot. You excited to get to work with John Beilein on that jumper?
Yeah, I can’t wait. I want to be a better overall player, and shooting is definitely going to be a part of that. So I definitely can’t wait to work with the coaches and try to get my shot better.
What is your mentality on the defensive end?
It’s just, you’ve got to take pride in playing defense. You don’t want your man to go by you. If you take pride in that and practice defense all the time, then you become a better defender.
Have you spoke with any other members of the 2014 class?
Not yet, but we just followed each other on Twitter, so I’ll probably talk to them soon.
You do anything to celebrate signing with Michigan?
Not really. I just came home. The next day I went to my mom’s house. That’s about it.
We know your brother was a Michigan fan — what college basketball team were you a fan of growing up?
I’m not going to lie, I was a Duke fan for the longest time (laughs).
What would you like the Michigan fan base to know about you?
I’m kind of a quiet guy, but I like to laugh and joke around, but I also work hard all the time. I’m always in the gym almost every day either lifting or shooting or working on ballhandling.
How comfortable are you grabbing a defensive rebound and running the fast break?
I definitely feel comfortable with it. That’s part of our early offense that our coach talked about in high school. He always wants a guard to get the rebound so we can get on the break right away.
Who has been an inspiration to you in your life?
My brother and my cousin.
What’s your favorite movie?
What’s your favorite TV show?
What kind of music do you listen to?
I listen to all types but I listen to a lot of Hip-Hop
Do you like to listen to anything in particular before a game?
It depends on the mood. Sometimes I’ll listen to some slow music to calm down. You don’t want to get too hype for games. I usually listen to slow music. But if I want to get up for a game I’ll listen to hype music, like Hip-Hop and rap and stuff.
Any idea what you’ll study at Michigan?
Not sure yet. I was thinking about Sports Management, but I’m not sure.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t worry about you. Keep continuing to work hard and good things will happen.
When you aren’t playing basketball, what are you most likely doing?
Probably playing XBox (laughs).