UCLA Basketball

Shabazz Muhammad to UCLA: Bruins' Newest Star Makes UCLA Title Contenders

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 28:  MVP Shabazz Muhammad #15 of the West team drives against Alex Poythress #22 of the East team during the 2012 McDonald's All American Game at United Center on March 28, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Eric BallFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2012

There is quite a buzz surrounding Shabazz Muhammad.

Muhammad is heading to UCLA to become a Bruin and has instantly resurrected a program that has missed the tournament in two of the past three seasons. According to the L.A. Times, the school is receiving increased interest in virtually every measurable way:

A UCLA spokesman said the school experienced an increase in men's basketball season-ticket purchases and memberships in the Wooden Athletic Fund since Muhammad signed his letter of intent Wednesday, although specific numbers were not immediately available.

Web traffic to UCLA's main athletic site, UCLABruins.com, increased 30% between Monday and Wednesday, according to the spokesman, who also said web traffic to the university site where men's basketball tickets are sold nearly quadrupled.

Fans are clearly excited and it’s easy to understand why. He is almost unstoppable from 15-feet in as he attacks the rim with no fear. Muhammad has a strong mid-range jumper and possesses the size and ability to handle multiple positions on the defensive end of the floor.

The only part of his game that needs work is his long-range shooting. He rarely had much success behind the arc in high school and needs to develop a three-point shot to ensure the defense doesn’t sag too far off him when he has the ball at the top of the key.

That’s something he can learn to do. You can’t teach his chiseled frame and blazing fast speed. The Bruins enter next season with plenty of other stud freshmen joining him. Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Josh Smith are all Bruins-bound as well, forming a class that’s reminiscent of Kentucky’s the past season.

Coach Ben Howland has to ensure that egos don’t clash and their lack of experience doesn’t come back to bite them. If he can, UCLA is not only the favorite to win the Pac-12, but also the NCAA tournament. Kentucky has created the blueprint for success in today’s college basketball landscape and UCLA is following the script perfectly.

You don’t need seniors to win anymore. It’s all about finding talent and the Bruins are cleaning up right now.

But the other freshmen will end up as role players. UCLA is Shabazz’s team from the moment he steps foot onto campus with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Can he handle it?

 

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