Those UCLA Bruins fans that jumped off of the bandwagon the past few years better get back on now because it’s going to get awful crowded real quickly.
With the news revealed that top high school basketball recruit Shabazz Muhammad has officially committed to play for Ben Howland and the Bruins this fall, UCLA suddenly catapults from postseason afterthoughts to Final Four contenders. I suppose assembling a killer recruiting class will do that for your chances.
Not only did the Bruins successfully woo Rivals.com’s top-rated player in 6’6” small forward Muhammad, they’ve also secured the services of Rivals’ second-rated player in stud 6’8” point-forward Kyle Anderson.
Snagging the nation’s top two prospects means three things for the Bruins.
First, it signifies that the UCLA will enter the 2012-13 with one of the most talented rosters in the game. Undoubtedly, Howland’s squad underachieved last season to the tune of a disappointing 19-14 record.
Despite this setback, the Bruins still have a roster stocked with some talented players—even before the signings of Muhammad and Anderson. Brothers Travis and David Wear, Larry Drew II (all UNC transfers), Tyler Lamb and Norman Powell are all expected to make significant contributions in Westwood this fall. Now, throw in the star duo of Muhammad and Anderson and 4-star forward Jordan Adams, and suddenly, the Bruins are oozing with talent.
Second, Muhammad’s announcement could serve as the start of a period of dominance in UCLA recruiting. Think about it for a moment.
For starters, the Bruins will be moving into newly-renovated Pauley Pavilion this season. Showing off that stellar new edifice will surely be a feather in Howland’s recruiting cap for years to come. On top of that, Howland has proven in his UCLA tenure that he can get guys into the NBA.
If you don’t believe me, just go ask the likes of Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, Jrue Holliday and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. That’s yet another feather in Howland’s recruiting cap.
And if Muhammad and Anderson can get the Bruins back to the Final Four, it will prove to recruits that they can have it all while playing at UCLA.
They can play in a great arena boasting of 11 national championship banners hanging from the rafters, get a first-class education, hoop it up for a coach who has a proven track record when it comes to getting players into the NBA and win a ton of college games in the process.
Finally, Muhammad’s commitment to UCLA proves that perception isn’t reality when it pertains to the Bruins’ men’s basketball program.
Remember the story published weeks ago by Sports Illustrated that painted a picture of a team rife with infighting, drinking and drug use amongst many of its players? It was an article that was supposed to shake the program to its very core.
Ironically enough, though, Howland’s recruiting prowess emerged from this supposed scandal stronger than ever. Anderson kept his commitment intact, and now, Muhammad is on board.
And with that, the hype surrounding the Bruins will only grow as we inch closer to the beginning of next season.
Westwood better get a bigger bandwagon.