When the state basketball playoffs begin this weekend, it will be the beginning of the end of a dream season for W.D. Mohammed boys head coach Farad Abdur-Rahman.
He began dreaming about this season a decade ago when, after coaching the girls’ program at the Class A private school in DeKalb County for six seasons, he took over the boys’ program in 2010. With two sons at home — Ahmad, 8, and Bilal, 5 — both already showing some promise in the sport, Abdur-Rahman did the math and could tell that there was a possibility he could coach both of his sons together for the 2019-2020 season.
And that’s exactly what happened. Ahmad, now a senior, and Bilal, a freshman, have led the Caliphs to a 16-7 record and a spot in the top 24 of the Class A power ratings, meaning W.D. Mohammed will be in the state playoffs in the classification’s private school division. Abdur-Rahman said having his dream become realty has been even better than he thought it would be.
“It’s been everything I thought it would be, and more,” said Ahmad-Rahman, himself a standout guard at Atlanta’s Mays High School in the late 1980s.”
The fact that Ahmad and Bilal are two of the top players in Region 5-A, helps. Ahmad, a 6-foot-1 shooting guard is averaging 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals per game. At 5-foot-9, Bilal runs the point but is also the Caliphs’ leading scorer at 22 points per game to go with eight assists.
“They have really stepped up,” Abdur-Rahman said. “I know I can lean on them. They’ve been in the locker room with me since they were in Pampers, so when it’s money time, I know they’ve been groomed for this.”
Abdur-Rahman said another positive aspect of coaching his sons has been that he has been able to reinforce and stress the same values on the court that he and wife Victoria preach at home.
“A lot of [non-region] teams don’t want to play us because they know how hard we play,” Abdur-Rahman said. “Even though we only have 25 boys in the entire school, we don’t have any reclassifications or anything like that. All of our players are home grown. Everything that we do has to be honorable at W.D. Mohammad. Building honorable men, that’s our code at home and on the court.”
But there were a couple of bumps along the way. Abdur-Rahman admitted to being a little harder on Ahmad and Bilal, at times, than the other players.
“I do expect more out of them, but there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed,” Abdur-Rahman said. “There were times I knew I definitely needed to check myself.”
And when he didn’t, momma was there to assist. Victoria Abdur-Rahman was looking forward to this season as well. But she was quick to set the boundaries.
“I told him he had 30 minutes after the game to still be the coach, but after that, that’s it,” she said. “Other players hear from him after the game, then they go home. I didn’t want my sons to keep hearing all night long about any mistakes they made or things they should have done. I didn’t want the three men in my house to be in game mode all night. I told them, 30 minutes and that’s it.”
Still, the good has far outdistanced the bad this season, she said.
“It’s been such a blessing,” Victoria said. “It has been so cool to see [Ahmad and Bilal] get even closer as brothers. And to see your husband and your sons on the same stage at the region tournament (both brothers were named to the all-region team), doing what they love, it has been the most wonderful thing.”
As for Ahmad and Bilal, they were looking forward to this season as well. With seniors Muhammad El-Amin and Fahim Law, and freshmen Amir Boyce and Rodrigo Farias, Ahmad and Bilal knew they had a talented team.
But they knew they would have to define their roles on the team in order to be effective leaders. Both of them have grown up being the main sources of offense for their teams, from rec ball to AAU. But because their games are different, defining their roles came easily.
“We’re both ball-dominant guards and used to having the ball in our hands,” Ahmad said. “We both can score, but he’s more of a slasher while I’m more of a shooter, so we complement each other well.”
“I’ve always been a point guard, and even though he can play the point he’s always been more of a two-guard,” Bilal said. “I try to make it hard for opponents to stay in front of me, so I try to make the defense collapse on me, and when they do that, if you leave him open that shot is going down. He’s just a knock-down shooter.”
And just like their games are different, their personalities are just as divergent. Ahmad is the cerebral, quiet assassin. In fact, even though he is one of the best pure shooters in Georgia, he has no plans on playing in college. He has been accepted to North Carolina A&T and is waiting to hear from the admissions offices of Harvard and Georgia Tech. He plans to major in engineering and eventually start a business consulting firm.
“He’s been that way since he was a little kid,” Abdur-Rahman said of Ahmad, who has a 4.2 grade point average. “Once when he was in fifth grade, when it was time for AAU practice he told me he couldn’t go because he had a project to finish. I respected him so much for that. We’ve always stressed books first and he has really taken that to heart.”
On the other hand, Bilal, who has a 4.0 grade point average himself, has two main goals: play Division I basketball, preferably at Duke, and then the NBA.
“He wants it. He wants it bad,” Abdur-Rahman said. “When he was in fifth grade, he told me he needed to talk to me. He told me he planned on going to Duke, so if I couldn’t get him there he wasn’t going to be able to play for me.”
Luckily for Abdur-Rahman, Bilal, who is known as one of the quickest freshmen point guards in the nation, believes his father can get him there.
“It’s good having a coach who really knows what I can do, and who trusts me,” Bilal said. “And it’s been good having a guy playing next to me who I know for sure is not afraid of the moment.”
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