Shabazz Muhammad picks UCLA

Bruin fans finally can look forward to having a solid basketball team. Although other schools like Kentucky and Duke made the selection process extremely difficult, UCLA was always in the mix.

“I chose to be a Bruin,” Muhammad said on ESPNU Wednesday night.

Muhammad, a 6-foot-6 wing from Bishop Gorman in Nevada, ultimately chose to go hoop by Westwood. The Blue Devils gained steam in the past couple of weeks, while some insiders in recent weeks saw Kentucky as the leader. At one time or another, programs like Kansas, Arizona, UNLV, USC, Texas A&M and Memphis were also involved with Muhammad.

“It’s a challenge, knowing how bad they [UCLA] were these last two years,” he said. “There’s a lot of bits and pieces to make it a really great team in the future.”

He is the No. 2-ranked player in the class of 2012, second only to Nerlens Noel. The kid is a left-handed scoring machine, using his strength to overpower most defenders on any attack to the rim. He has also improved (and will continue to hone) his outside shooting, making him a near-impossible guard at the wing. His primary goal on most possessions is to attack the basket, and is able to do so in difficult/clutch situations all the same. If the defense puts someone taller on him, Muhammad uses his speed and strength; if the defender is smaller, Muhammad can also utilize back-to-the-basket moves and facilitate from the post.

16.05 – That’s the average number of field goals  Muhammad attempted for his high school team during his senior season. Over 20 games, Shabazz shot 321 times. With the ability to score at will, it makes sense that the ball should be in his hands at all times, especially at the high school level. His attempts should decrease as he begins to play a higher lever of basketball surrounded by players as elite as he is.

Right?

Not exactly. When Shabazz scored 35 points in the recent Nike Hoops Summit, he set both the event scoring mark AND the record for field goals attempted. In the USA Junior National Select Team’s 84-75 loss to the world select team, Shabazz shot 12-27 while playing nearly the entire game. The second-most field goal attempts was 18. The last player to even come close to shooting as much as Shabazz in the Nike Hoops Summit was Enes Kanter in 2010, who shot 13-21.

At UCLA, Shabazz would have more of a dominant role on a team, a group that would NEED him to be the “shoot first, ask questions later” kind of guy.

Ben Howlands 2012 recruiting class will not only include Muhammad, but also other top-100 prospects: Kyle Anderson (No. 3) and Jordan Adams (No. 71). I’m excited to see what a combo of Muhammad and Anderson (a Jalen Rose-type player, size + handles) could do; if coached the right way and utilized properly, it could be one of the most dangerous in the country next season.

Here’s to Shabazz Muhammad’s decision, and the hope that he can help resurrect basketball in Westwood. With Anderson at his side, things will get interesting for the Bruins this upcoming season. At the very least, we’ll be entertained.

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