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UCLA recruit Shabazz Muhammad's genes a great fit for basketball

Shabazz Muhammad's father Ron Holmes and mother Faye Muhammad were basketball stars at USC and Long Beach State, respectively. The family tree also includes a former NFL receiver and other athletes.

April 21, 2012|By Chris Foster

Ron Holmes, then a USC basketball player, was with a buddy at a summer league basketball game in 1982 when he saw his future on the court.

Watching Faye Paige play, Holmes said to his friend, "See that No. 10? She's going to be my wife and we're going to make some All-Americans."

Shabazz Muhammad has a chance to fulfill that prediction.

Muhammad, Ron and Faye's 18-year-old son, is a 6-foot-6 swingman who is widely regarded as the nation's best or second-best high school senior. He's set to begin his college basketball education at UCLA in the fall, but has already been extensively home schooled on the subject.

Shake his family tree and basketballs drop out.

Or, as Holmes puts it: "The athletic genes were there."

Holmes scored 1,211 points, 20th in school history, in four seasons at USC, and his allegiance to the Trojans has prompted some early personal ground rules about cheering for UCLA. For example, "I won't do the eight clap," he says. Also, powder blue remains out of the wardrobe.

Paige, who changed her name to Faye Muhammad after converting to the Muslim faith, played for Long Beach State teams that were so good, she says, "We barely took note of the Bruins."

Shabazz's aunt, Robin Holmes, played at Cal State Fullerton. She recalls UCLA being "hated," and games with Long Beach State having a family feud feel.

"Faye was a very difficult person on the court," Robin says diplomatically.

All three played in Pauley Pavilion and won in their final games there. All are eager to see Muhammad begin his career in what next season will be a renovated arena.

Faye jokingly attributes her son's college choice to "karma."

"Shabazz got a UCLA throwback jersey when he was younger and came home one day to find his dad had cut the 'UCLA' out of it," she says. "I brought that up the other day. I told Ron that he should have never done that to the jersey."

Holmes says his son's decision "felt a little weird," but blood is thicker than water under the bridge.

"The UCLA coaches are all good guys," Holmes says.

Holmes, who played at El Toro High, taught his son the game as it was passed down from his parents. Leroy and Ethel Holmes both played in high school.

"This goes back a lot further than Ron and Faye," Robin Holmes says. "Our mom was the matriarch. She used to take us out and school us."

Robin says she has one concern about her nephew: that he will be too much like her brother.

"Ron wouldn't know defense if it bit him in the butt," she says. "I tried to work with Ron. It didn't help."

Her remark stems from a good-natured sibling rivalry. A more intense type grew from Long Beach.

Faye Muhammad was taught to compete by her older brother, Mel. But basketball wasn't the first lesson. Stephone Paige, another older brother, had 377 receptions in nine seasons with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs.

Faye's first athletic challenge as a kid?

"Mel made me put the football equipment on and play defense on [Stephone]," she says.

She fared better in basketball.

"It kept me out of trouble," Faye says. "My mom would go house to house, picking up my friends in our yellow station wagon, and take us to play. It was nonstop basketball. I was hooked."

Faye was a star athlete at Long Beach Poly High, and she made a quick transition to Long Beach State, where she was third in the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA track and field meet as a freshman.

A knee injury slowed her athletic career, but she remained a vital part of the 49ers' success in basketball. Long Beach had a 130-27 record during her five seasons in the program; her senior year the 49ers went 29-5 and reached the 1986 NCAA West Regional final.

Faye scored 1,245 points for Long Beach and never lost to UCLA, including a final 85-69 victory at Pauley Pavilion. "We always handled them, whether at home or Pauley," she says.

Her husband also had some success on UCLA's home floor. Ron and USC defeated the Bruins twice in 1985, his senior season, including an 80-78 four-overtime thriller at Pauley Pavilion.

"All I remember is I missed some free throws in that game," Ron says. "It should have never gone to overtime."

Assuaging the pain is the knowledge that he pulled in the rebound that ignited a rush up the court for the buzzer-beating layup that won the game. The victory gave the Trojans a share of the Pacific 10 Conference championship, their last regular-season title.

Robin also won her last game at Pauley Pavilion, a 65-55 Fullerton victory in 1985, her junior season. Now vice president for student affairs at the University of Oregon, she finished with 1,731 career points, fifth on Fullerton's all-time scoring list.

Robin's games against Long Beach and her future sister-in-law are remembered as stressful for everyone.

"I would tell Coach, 'Please don't put me on Robin, her family is going to be here,'" Faye recalls. "We'd get to the game and the first thing Coach [Joan] Bonvicini would say was, 'Faye, you have Holmes.'"

The tension was just as thick in the other locker room.

"I remember every game," Robin says. During one, Faye was playing so well that Robin says she ended up pleading with her: "I said, 'Back off, you're killing me.' She kept sticking it to me."

The real pressure, though, came from the stands.

"My mom was pretty vocal, and she did not like that Faye was so tenacious," Ron says. "I wanted Robin to do well, too. But Faye and I were dating."

His solution?

"I kept quiet," Ron says.

Faye says she could beat Ron in a game, too — under certain conditions.

"I had one rule: no dunking," she says. "If he couldn't dunk, he couldn't beat me."

Their son, though, is an entirely different matter.

Says Faye: "I stopped being able to beat him when he was in the eighth grade."

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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