September 13, 2012

By Kenneth Miller

 LAWT Columnist


Last week while just chill’n, I got a phone call from one of my basketball friends who told me that UCLA prize recruit Shabazz Muhammad had already begun formulating plans to play overseas.


The source indicated that Muhammad will be declared ineligible by the NCAA and will not be allowed to play for the Bruins or any other college program.


While rumors regarding Muhammad, a 6’6 man-child, have been circulating for several months, recently the NCAA indicated that it was investigating the status of Muhammad, Kyle Anderson a 6’8 point guard out of New Jersey and post player Tony Parker.


All three recruits were responsible for lifting the Bruins to the top recruiting class in the nation and thrusting them to the top of many college basketball preseason polls.


UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero acknowledged the NCAA investigation of the student/athletes, but cited privacy laws that prevented him from discussing the matter.


Both Anderson and Parker were allowed to participate during a recent exhibition tour to China with UCLA, but if the allegations are true that could have been their first and last experience with the UCLA program.


The consequences of losing Muhammad or perhaps all three of the recruits would be a devastating blow to the UCLA basketball program and its head coach Ben Howland.


Although, Howland has led the Bruins to three consecutive Final Four berths during his tenure, they did not win a single title. Some would say the championships were too hard to achieve because of Florida’s back-to back title run, but didn’t North Carolina State upset Georgetown?


Rapid defections either to the NBA or via transfer, have not helped Howland’s case because most players who left early for the NBA still don’t openly endorse the head coach.


A scathing Sports Illustrated article last season painting a program in peril was brushed aside by AD Guerrero and the coaching staff, but this current crisis regarding Muhammad and his fellow recruits could cripple the program.


My sources tell me they would not be surprised if Muhammad is not cleared to play by the NCAA.


I was also informed that Muhammad was seen in Orange County driving a 2012 Range Rover while purchasing roughly $5,000 worth of computer equipment. Expensive lunches in Hollywood have also been reported.


Another source added that it was two prominent coaches who recruited both Muhammad and Anderson that turned UCLA in to the NCAA compliance office.


Because of the ongoing NCAA investigation neither the NCAA nor UCLA could comment on these latest allegations.


The NCAA is carefully combing through all of the information it has received and therefore a ruling could come as early as November.


Regardless of the outcome, don’t expect for local prep standouts to be running anytime soon to Westwood, especially when UCLA went out of region to hire Kory McCray AAU coach for its staff.


McCray, whose father founded he powerful AAU Atlanta Celtics, is qualified to be an NCAA assistant, but was primarily lured to UCLA by Howland to tap into the region from which he came. Parker is from Georgia.


Qualified local coaches have been passed over by UCLA for years.


This article is not written to accuse Howland or UCLA of anything. That responsibility rests in the hands of the NCAA.


It is a search for the truth. Sources are not always reliable, but these sources have no bias against Howland or UCLA. They were providing information on a high profile recruit at UCLA.


Only time will tell if they are accurate, and if they are, it spells trouble for the UCLA men’s basketball program.


Category: Sports