UCLA Basketball: Reasons Shabazz Muhammad Will Have an Anthony Davis-Like Impact
Shabazz Muhammad and Anthony Davis are one in the same. That statement probably makes no sense to you on the surface.
After all, Muhammad hasn’t played a single minute of college basketball, hasn’t been taken with the first overall pick of the NBA draft (not yet, at least) and doesn’t rock a unibrow. Davis, meanwhile, has all three of those accolades printed on his gaudy resume.
But make no mistake, Muhammad has the potential to have the kind of major impact on college basketball that Davis did during his big season with the Kentucky Wildcats.
Of course, when compared to Davis in terms of making a splash, Muhammad has a lot to live up to. Davis won a national championship, in addition to the Naismith, Associated Press and SEC Player of the Year awards during his one and only season with Kentucky.
Some pundits will argue that it’s impossible for Muhammad to have that kind of impact for the UCLA Bruins during his freshman season. But as Kevin Garnett once proclaimed, anything is possible!
Here are some very distinct reasons why Muhammad will have an Antony Davis-like impact during his UCLA career.
His Offensive Abilities Will Have a Tremendous Impact on UCLA
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Anthony Davis made his presence felt at Kentucky through his shot blocking and rebounding prowess. While Shabazz Muhammad will likely help the UCLA Bruins through a different avenue, via the offensive end, he will nevertheless have the same impact for the Bruins that Davis had for Kentucky during his lone season in Lexington.
Even before taking to a college basketball court, Muhammad’s offensive game is NBA-ready. He’s very capable of creating his own offensive opportunities and, according to scouts, his outside shot is improving steadily.
Perhaps the best evidence of Muhammad’s offensive potential came via this past spring’s annual McDonald’s All American Game. Against other elite peers, Muhammad scored a game-high 21 points in leading the West to victory.
Stuffing the stat sheet offensively will be a great way for Muhammad to make an Anthony Davis-like impact on UCLA, but it’s not necessarily the only way…
Buying into Ben Howland’s Defense Will Pay Even More Dividends
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In case you’ve forgotten, Ben Howland still has a reputation for being one of the better defensive coaches in college basketball. Of course, it may not seem that way given UCLA’s struggles in recent seasons.
However, Howland built up the Pittsburgh basketball program on the back of blue-collar defense and followed that up by taking UCLA to three straight Final Fours with the same defensive formula.
If Howland can get star freshman Shabazz Muhammad to commit to his system of aggressive on-ball defense, then Muhammad could have a scary-good impact on college basketball this season. Not only would Muhammad be plundering opposing defenders with his NBA-ready offensive game, but he would also be frustrating opponents on the defensive end.
Under that scenario, Muhammad could potentially have an even greater impact than Anthony Davis did in his lone season at Kentucky. With all due respect to the unibrow, scoring certainly wasn’t Davis’ strength; his presence was felt on defense and on the glass.
If Muhammad tears it up on both ends of the floor, there’s no telling how far UCLA will go in 2012-13—and how high Muhammad will be drafted in next year’s NBA draft.
He Shows Tenacious Focus on the Court
To see the Shabazz Muhammad's impact on the McDonald's game, watch the last 40 seconds or so of this clip.
Just from watching tape of UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad, it’s evident that he’s a Jekyll-and-Hyde type of player. In off-court interviews with the media, Muhammad comes across as very humble, mature and astute.
But on the court, it’s clear that Muhammad is one of those ballers who takes no prisoners. He plays with a mean streak, complete with a nasty scowl on his face more times than not.
That kind of on-court intensity could very well give Muhammad an edge when it comes to making a hugely positive impact on his UCLA Bruins teammates. If Muhammad can influence fellow freshman stars Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker to play with a similar ferocity, then UCLA could be unstoppable.
And if Muhammad’s attitude could actually rub off on underachieving veterans like junior center Joshua Smith, then the star freshman will be doing a better job of motivating players than Ben Howland ever could.
With So Much Surrounding Talent, Muhammad Will Be Free to Dominate
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Make no mistake about it: this year’s UCLA men’s basketball team is absolutely loaded. They boast a solid mix of proven veterans and stud freshmen.
The star attraction for coach Ben Howland will be sensational freshman Shabazz Muhammad. And with so much pure talent (young and old) surrounding Muhammad, it will create plenty of opportunities for the gifted freshman forward out of Las Vegas to impact college basketball.
You get the feeling that UCLA’s opponents are going to have to pick their poison when choosing how to defend the Bruins. Do you choose to focus your defensive game plan around Muhammad?
If so, then you risk freshman point forward Kyle Anderson burning you with his unique combination of size and ball-handling abilities. Or maybe Muhammad simply defers to the potentially imposing frontcourt duo of freshman Tony Parker and junior Josh Smith.
And don’t forget about the Wear twins—Travis and David—and their ability to contribute on offense. With so many options (including shooting guard Tyler Lamb) on offense, teams could sag off Muhammad on defense, allowing him to attack at will.
If he’s able to do that, you may as well give him the Naismith Trophy right now.
The Pac 12 Competition Is Weaker Than Other Power Conferences
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If Shabazz Muhammad was playing in an elite conference like the Big East or Big 12, then I could potentially doubt his abilities to have a big freshman season. But Muhammad is playing for the UCLA Bruins in the downtrodden Pac 12.
With the Pac 12 truly lacking in elite basketball competition, expect Muhammad to dominate early and often in 2012-13. The Pac 12 is coming off a season that saw only two of its teams—Colorado and California—make the NCAA Tournament.
Considering that BCS conferences typically get at least four or five of its teams into the big dance in its sleep, that’s pathetic. And when you consider that California had to play in one of those meager First Four games (which they lost), that’s even more embarrassing.
Sure, UCLA will face some formidable in-conference competition this season. Washington looks strong on paper, and Sean Miller has done a great job of recruiting elite talent at Arizona. And don’t forget about coach Dana Altman and his ascending Oregon program.
But don’t expect the Pac 12 to become this gauntlet-of-a-conference overnight. Considering the meager opposition that Muhammad will face more games than not (Utah, Oregon State, Arizona State, Washington State and USC won’t provide much resistance), it’s safe to say he’ll be a man amongst boys very often in Pac 12 play.