November 29, 2012

By Kenneth Miller

LAWT Staff Writer


The fists full of mud began slinging in the direction of the high school basketball phenom and UCLA star recruit before the ink could dry on his National Letter of Intent.

Shabazz Muhammad, a 6'6 wunderkind had just concluded one of the most celebrated high school careers since LeBron James, but the NBA imposed age limit prevented him from taking his talents straight from high school to the NBA.

He had just polished off a prep career where he averaged more than 25 points per game, was 2011 Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year, 2012 Morgan Wootten Player of the Year, 2012 McDonald's All-American MVP, 2012 Jordan Brand High School All-American co-MVP, 2012 Naismith prep Player of the Year, 2012 Mr. Basketball USA, was the ESPN ranked number 2 high school senior and participated in the prestigious 2012 Nike Hoop Summit.

Muhammad had narrowed his final college choices to three of the most powerful programs in the nation; Kentucky, Duke and UCLA.

Muhammad decided to attend UCLA, lifting the Bruins' already elite recruiting class to No. 1 in the nation and thus increasing the already lofty expectations of the most storied college basketball program America even higher.

A newly renovated Pauley Pavilion awaited his arrival and coach Ben Howland and Bruins fans breathed a collected sigh of relief because in Muhammad UCLA was getting its most promising recruit since Baron Davis.

Similar to Davis more than a decade ago, Muhammad's flight to UCLA was grounded before it took off by the NCAA.

The governing body that rules collegiate sports had open an investigation into a possible amateur rules violation alleging that Muhammad had received improper benefits because a close friend of the family supported him in making an unofficial visit to Duke and North Carolina.

Muhammad's father is former USC star Ron Holmes and his mother Faye Muhammad was a track standout for Long Beach State University.

One would think that with two educated parents who are quite familiar with the NCAA that they would not do anything that would jeopardize their son's collegiate future.

After all we're not just talking about some future college kid, we're talking about a projected lottery pick, a basketball player who could have easily took millions to play overseas before landing in the NBA.

To Muhammad's credit, both he and his family did not take the money and run, but instead played by the rules for their son to achieve college eligibility.

Instead of allowing Muhammad to play after he enrolled at UCLA and then rendering a decision, the NCAA decided that he was guilty before allowing him to prove his innocence.

Kyle Anderson, his high school friend was also subjected to the NCAA's rush to judgment but was allowed to travel to China for an exhibition tour with the team before he was subsequently cleared.

Meanwhile, Muhammad was left in limbo while the legal bills continued to mount.

As the season approached, the NCAA ruled that he was ineligible on Nov. 9. To their credit the administration at UCLA immediately appealed.

Three games were gone and seemingly the whole season of Muhammad's freshman season before it was revealed that the NCAA was intending to keep Muhammad from playing the entire season.

Memphis, Tenn. attorney, Florence Johnson Raines, said she heard a man who said he was dating "an NCAA attorney" loudly telling people around him that his girlfriend had said Muhammad would never play college basketball this season because he broke rules.

Category: Sports