With three starters gone from last year's nationally ranked and state championship team at Norcross (Ga.) High School, Taariq Muhammad knows his responsibility and game must improve this season.
The 6-foot-2 junior point guard teams up with Wake Forest bound senior Al-Farouq Aminu as the only two returning starters from the Peach State power.
Muhammad, a top 100 prospect in the class of 2009, said he knows the challenges await him and his team but he is relishing in the opportunity of stepping into some big shoes left by the likes of Gani Lawal (Georgia Tech), Tony Neysmith (Oklahoma) and Jordan DeMercy (Florida State).
"I take full responsibility (of leading his young team) because I'm the point guard. It's my job to lead the team and in order for the younger guys that don't exactly know our way, I have to teach them our ways of doing things," Muhammad said.
"It's kind of weird because you lose a guy like Gani Lawal and two other guys that are over 6-5 that are Division I players. But, you know, every year something changes and you have to find ways to beat teams and win the state championship."
Norcross, as usual, has a demanding national schedule that will take the Blue Devils to Florida, West Virginia and a handful of tough in-state match-ups. Muhammad hopes to impress the college coaches during the whirlwind tour, too.
To date, Muhammad said he has interest from the likes of Florida, Kentucky, Miami (offer), USC, Texas, Oregon, Georgetown, Auburn (offer) South Carolina (offer), Clemson and Wake Forest.
"I like Kentucky but Florida and Georgetown keep me thinking," Muhammad said. "All three of them are great schools and South Carolina has been on me ever since I was a freshman. I have to show them some love. Miami, my mom actually went to Miami, and they said they need three guards in the class of 2009 so I'm going to look at them."
Muhammad said he has yet to take any visits and hasn't really thought about narrowing his list down as of yet. There are a couple of things he does want to find, though, in his future home.
"I'm not saying I want to come in and start as a freshman but I would like come in and chip off some minutes off the senior point guard because whenever that senior point guard leaves, I'll have some experience and that team will be my team," he said.
With a clean slate on the recruiting side of things and a big year ahead of him, Muhammad said he wants to focus his energies on the season. Who can blame him?