Shabazz Muhammad is looking to bring UCLA back to the forefront of college basketball, and not just this season. Muhammad may be a one-and-done athlete, but his 2012-13 season has far-reaching implications.
Ben Howland has had his ups and downs as head coach at UCLA. The Bruins have struggled in the four seasons since back-to-back-to-back Final Four appearances. Two of those four seasons ended without an NCAA tournament bid, putting Howland squarely on the hot seat.
Muhammad enters this discussion with Howland's job security at stake. Howland has once again put together one of the best recruiting classes in the country, arguably his best as the Bruins head coach.
Without a successful season, however, Howland will be under even more scrutiny. The 2012-13 season is promising for these Bruins. A top-ranked recruiting class will join a team with a foundation of veterans, leaving expectations particularly high.
One-and-done players want to win. That, along with exposure and quality of coaching, drive these top players to premier schools. UCLA certainly qualifies as a premier school, but hasn't landed (or kept) the recruits necessary to maintain a high level of achievement in recent years.
Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker and Jordan Adams make up the Bruins 2012 recruiting class, tops in the nation according to ESPN.com. A top recruiting class is expected to generate wins immediately. Should these four fail, it may be the last season in Westwood for Howland.
As the vanguard for this class, Muhammad would have to fall short of expectations in a drastic way. He's widely considered a top-five pick in the 2013 NBA draft, and the talent he showcased in the McDonald's All-American game and Jordan Brand Classic was unmistakable.
However unlikely that may be, it is still a possibility to ponder. If the Bruins falter, Muhammad would leave a sour taste in the mouth of future top recruits. Recruiting would take a huge step in the wrong direction.
But if Muhammad and the 2012 class prevail, you can chalk UCLA up for some strong recruiting classes in the future. Recruits love track records of progress, and Muhammad has the chance to lay a foundation for the future.
There is, of course, gray area in this debate. Is the success of this team solely determined by how well they perform in the NCAA tournament? Is a Sweet 16 appearance enough?
Just how good do the 2012-13 Bruins need to be for Howland to keep his job? For recruits to remain interested?
In an era that is heavily influenced by one-and-done college basketball stars, the road to success needs to be short and sweet. Superstars, like Muhammad, become role models for future stars.
The outcome of Shabazz Muhammad's one year in Westwood will have an extensive impact for UCLA recruiting in the long term. Success will follow.