Dynamic Don: The Many Sides of Khalil Shabazz

“They focused on results… I’m just focused on the route.” — Khalil Shabazz, a.k.a Lil Bazzy, “Make a Way”

Khalil Shabazz has proven himself to be one of the best basketball players to grace the Hilltop, but he is more than just a star athlete. 

When he isn’t knocking down threes or locking down his opponent, Shabazz is focusing on building his brand and cementing his legacy far beyond basketball. Shabazz is a rapper, under the alias “Lil Bazzy,” and under his own label, iBall Records. He also owns and designs for his clothing brand called “iBall”, and he is starring in an upcoming docu-series about his life called “The Book of Bazzy.” 

Shabazz came onto the scene in the south side of Seattle, Wash., where he attended Rainier Beach High School, a powerhouse in the Seattle basketball circuit. He hoped to join a list of alumni headed to the NBA such as Nate Robinson, Jamal Crawford, and Dejounte Murray. “I didn’t really take [basketball] serious until the eighth grade, and then being able to attend Rainier Beach solidified everything, seeing NBA guys and college coaches in our gym every day just made it feel real and made me feel like it was doable to go to college, and go to the league,” he said. 

He is no stranger to the bright lights and has victory coursing through his veins. Shabazz and his brother Shadeed, who is a recent graduate, athlete, and future Hall of Famer of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, have a combined total of five Washington state championships, which is the most in state history between brothers. 

After a tough recruitment process, the six-foot guard did not draw much attention from Division 1 schools despite his stellar performance that led his team to nationals in New York. He took an 80 percent scholarship to Central Washington University a month before school was supposed to start. After proving himself at Central Washington and earning the title “Freshman of the Year” and an honorable mention for the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, he entered the transfer portal and ended up taking an offer to join the Dons on the Hilltop.

Khalil Shabazz surveys the floor vs BYU at War Memorial Gym. PHOTOS COURTESY OF EDUARDO GARCIA/DONS ATHLETICS

Shabazz showed flashes of greatness coming off the bench for the Dons in the 2019-20 season, being one of four Dons to finish the season averaging double-digit points. He embraced his role, utilizing his high energy and defensive tenacity to bring much-needed intensity to the game. 

Shabazz is currently a graduate student at USF, and after a brief stint in the transfer portal and entry into the 2022 NBA Draft in the offseason, he announced his return to the Hilltop via his Instagram. “I felt like if I was going to have my last year it had to be here, these are the guys that gave me a chance when I had nowhere else to go. I definitely owe USF a lot and there is a lot I can still give before I get out of here.”

In his years as a Don, Shabazz has become a leader. Since his arrival, he has since been named to WCC All-Tournament Team, twice to All-WCC second team, earned Division 1-AAA Scholar-Athlete Team honors, and was the 40th athlete in USF history to eclipse 1000 points. Along with these outstanding athletic achievements, Shabazz has also built an image for himself that showcases more than just his athletic ability.

In August, he released his newest project “Finding Myself” which features five tracks, and a bonus freestyle titled “Mo Money Mo Problems Freestyle.” Shabazz said he gets better with every project and hopes to continue to improve in his craft. “I called the EP ‘Finding Myself’ because my tape before that was called ‘Working With What I Got’ and that was my first project, and I named it that because I had a lot of friends and people in the music industry they didn’t really want to extend an open hand and reach out and help me become a better artist. So, I was working with what I had whether it was a makeshift studio in a closet or working with people who don’t really have a sense of what they’re doing when it comes to engineering, but I was still trying to put out good music.

 “I chose ‘Finding Myself’ because this is more finding myself as an artist and expanding my horizon and not just rap one-dimensional. I’m still trying to find different pockets and bars, and a different way to really express myself as an artist.”

Along the way, Shabazz has established a relationship with a local SF rapper, Lil Bean. They became friends during the pandemic in 2020 when Shabazz first started listening to his music and shouting him out on Instagram. “That’s my dawg man… When he announced his tour dates I let him know I was coming to the Oakland show and he invited me backstage and he put the whole thing together. He even comes to the school to hoop too. He pulls up to open gym, he comes to get shots up because he used to hoop for City College of San Francisco. That’s all love bro, that’s my guy.”

Shabazz is still fully locked into his basketball career and understands that it’s his priority, but he does not let that stop him from having fun. “In terms of basketball, it’s the main thing and I don’t lose focus of that. We are reaching for the stars, we got to get back to the tournament because that’s the norm now, we got to win some games and make it happen. It takes a lot of work and effort but it’s doable and that’s the goal.

“I want to have people have a lot of stuff to talk about when it’s my time to go, and I’m just trying to make it easy for them.”

You can keep up with Lil Bazzy’s music on all streaming platforms. The first episode of “The Book of Bazzy” is set to release in October or early November, right around the start of basketball season. His clothing brand iBall can be found on Instagram @iballthebrand.

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