If UCLA freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad wasn't already bound for the NBA, his head coach made sure everyone knew on Saturday night that there's virtually no chance he sticks around for his sophomore season.
Muhammad and the Bruins completed the latest college basketball upset on Saturday night, downing the No. 11 Arizona Wildcats at Pauley Pavilion and putting themselves in position to return to the AP Top 25 next week.
In a postgame interview about the future of his young team, UCLA head coach Ben Howland didn't sound very optimistic about the chances of his star guard sticking around much longer (tweets provided by Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register):
Howland on Shabazz: "I’m very much a realist. I knew going into this that it was a one year deal."— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) March 3, 2013
Howland on Shabazz Muhammad: "That was his last game in Pauley Pavilion, no doubt about it."— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) March 3, 2013
Muhammad responded to those comments later on in the evening, but his remarks didn't paint the picture of a young man looking to further his education ahead of his NBA career:
Muhammad did say it was in the back of his head that this might be his last game at Pauley.— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) March 3, 2013
Muhammad's father, Ron Holmes, downplayed any questions about his son going pro:
I asked Shabazz Muhammad's dad, Ron Holmes, about Howland's comments of this being Shabazz's last home game. Expectedly, he downplayed it.— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) March 3, 2013
Averaging 18.3 points per game on 46 percent shooting in his first collegiate season, Muhammad has established himself as a candidate for the 2013 NBA draft since he was a high school senior.
He has done nothing to negate those assertions this year, drawing comparisons to Houston Rockets guard James Harden, showing a visibly upset personality when he doesn't get the ball in big moments and proving that he indeed was one of the best players of the entire 2012 CBB recruiting class.
What should Shabazz Muhammad's next move be?
With the injury to Kentucky center Nerlens Noel and the lack of a clear-cut No. 1 overall prospect in this year's draft, Muhammad would likely be a top-five pick if he declared for the draft tomorrow and teams were allowed to pick the next day.
With that kind of guarantee (both monetary and personal) in sight, it's no wonder kids like Muhammad are only interested in meeting the minimum requirements for NBA eligibility before heading to the big leagues one year later.
The NCAA tournament is in sight, and UCLA is a dark horse to make a deep run after another impressive win over a Top 25 opponent. The Bruins must make the best of their chances this year, because Muhammad (and possibly Kyle Anderson too) doesn't look likely to stick around for go-around No. 2.