Las Vegas prep star Muhammad picks UCLA over Kentucky, Duke
Wednesday was quite a day for Shabazz Muhammad. After being named the No. 1 recruit in the final Rivals150 rankings for the class of 2012, the 6-foot-6 senior forward from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman made his much-anticipated college decision. Muhammad committed to UCLA over finalists Kentucky and Duke.
While Ben Howland's Bruins had been regarded as the behind-the-scenes favorites to land the powerful wing scorer, neither Howland nor the Bruin faithful could celebrate until Muhammad officially announced his decision on Wednesday night.
"It was down to Kentucky, Duke and UCLA and I chose to be a Bruin," Muhammad said during a nationally televised appearance on ESPNU. "I'll be at UCLA next year."
According to Muhammad, he felt most comfortable with the UCLA staff. He was also intrigued by the opportunity to help restore the once-proud Bruins to national prominence.
"I just think it's a challenge," Muhammad said. "Knowing how bad they were these last two years, it's a challenge to really get them back up to the top knowing they are the leaders in all-time championships with 11."
The commitment of the nation's top player should go a long way to helping ease the sting of recent negative publicity for the UCLA program. The Bruins missed the NCAA tournament last year and have struggled to replicate the success of their back-to-back Final Four berths in 2007 and '08.
Muhammad's commitment could accelerate one of college basketball's blueblood's return to glory.
Not only do the Bruins have the nation's top prospect in their highly touted haul, they also have the nation's No. 3 player, point guard Kyle Anderson, and the No. 62 player, small forward Jordan Adams. The trio should mix with a solid group of veterans and add serious perimeter firepower to a team that will not lack for interior options.
Anderson may benefit the most from Muhammad's addition. A product of Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony, Anderson is one of the most dynamic and unique playmakers in this year's class. With 6-foot-9 size, he is capable of playing anywhere from the point to the power forward. With a scorer such as Muhammad on the floor -- someone who commands tremendous defensive respect -- Anderson could be free to roam and make plays with the comfort of knowing he has options on the interior and the perimeter.
"Kyle Anderson is a great addition to that program with Jordan Adams," said Muhammad. "Hopefully Tony Parker will come and there are a lot of bits and pieces with that team that could make it a great team in the future."
Though the 2012 UCLA class only consists of three players, the Bruins boast two of the nation's top three talents. After a season to forget, Ben Howland has landed a recruiting crop to remember -- and perhaps the best in the nation.