Journey Muhammad and her Ardrey Kell High girls basketball teammates are tired.
They’re tired of Southwest Guilford, Northwest Guilford, and all the other Guilfords. They’re tired of close calls. They’re looking for something more, and this is the last shot for a group of seniors that has enjoyed remarkable success.
That’s a bad feeling, says Muhammad, referring to the deep runs in state tournaments that ended with losses.
“Getting that far, and then losing?” she said. “We want more.”
Coach Jeff Buseick’s team has eight seniors on the roster this season, four of them starters. As freshmen, they played on a 25-3 team that lost in the state’s Elite Eight to Northwest Guilford. They were 24-7 as sophomores, losing in the Elite Eight to Southwest Guilford.
And last year? Ardrey Kell was 24-7, made the Elite Eight and lost to Northwest Guilford.
This senior group has a list of amazing accomplishments, says Buseick, citing three conference championships and the deep state tournament runs.
Muhammad, daughter of former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Muhsin, will be a key part of how far Ardrey Kell goes this season. A 5-4 point guard, she averaged 9.5 points, 4.4 assists and 2.4 steals a game as a junior.
“We’ll be looking for her scoring,” Buseick says. “But defense, that’s really her thing.”
Video of Muhammad shows a hounding, in-your-face defender with quick hands.
“That’s the way I like to play,” she says with a smile. “Playing that kind of defense is what we do as a team. I see myself as a leader, to help set the tempo.”
Muhammad took up basketball as a sixth-grader and played at Jay M. Robinson Middle in southeast Charlotte before coming to Ardrey Kell. She plays AAU basketball in the offseason and is, according to her coach, an absolute gym rat.
She also is a leader in the classroom, carrying a 4.5 grade-point average (on a 5.0 scale). That average helped Ardrey Kell’s girls team set a school record for highest GPA for a team last season.
Muhammad enjoys both English and math classes and says she rarely gets bored, with two brothers and four sisters. She hopes to play college basketball but is still sorting through the possibilities.
But mostly, she says she’s committed to doing everything possible to help carry Ardrey Kell further this season.
The Knights will get plenty of early-season tests. Their non-conference schedule includes some of the Charlotte-area’s elite, with games against Myers Park, Charlotte Catholic, Concord First Assembly, Mallard Creek and Hough.
“We try to play the best competition possible,” Buseick says. “Our goal is to be playing our best basketball in late February and early March.”
And Muhammad expects to be playing high school basketball in late winter.
“We have a great group of seniors, but there’s a lot of talent in the freshman class and with our other younger players,” she says. “Our team is close. We have a focus.
“This is our senior year. This is our year.”