Ben Howland has had a long year. The UCLA men’s basketball coach endured a disappointing season filled with failed expectations, public turmoil and even questions about his own job security.
Needless to say, Howland needed some help.
Cue the cavalry.
Shabazz Muhammad, the No. 1 high school basketball player in the nation according to Rivals.com, committed to UCLA on national television Wednesday night, giving Howland his biggest recruiting win since Kevin Love in 2007.
“I couldn’t be better,” Howland said at the start of his teleconference Wednesday night. “I am very happy right now.”
Muhammad chose UCLA over defending champion Kentucky, Duke and dozens of other schools across the nation.
“I look forward to the challenge of getting (UCLA) back on top,” said Muhammad during a televised special on ESPNU.
“I know that they are the leaders in championships with 11 and that Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are great additions to the program. There are a lot of great pieces returning on the team that will make it a great team in the future.”
Anderson, a 6-foot-8 point guard out of New Jersey, is rated as the No. 3 player in the nation by Rivals.com while Adams, a shooting guard out of Atlanta, is rated as the No. 41 player in the nation by ESPN.
Muhammad and Anderson forged a strong relationship over the years through the Amateur Athletic Union circuit and other events like the McDonald’s All-American game.
“I am so happy right now,” Anderson said during ESPNU’s Signing Day Special.
“I think we worked well in that Hoops Summit game and I’m just so happy to have him for the next season. I think we can do some really big things at UCLA.”
Anderson committed to UCLA back in September and his friendship with Muhammad undoubtedly played a role in both of their recruitments.
“What’s great is these kids recruiting each other; that’s the best kind of recruiting in the world,” Howland said.
“I got to be on the phone with Shabazz right after (he committed) and he handed the phone to Kyle and the first thing he said to Kyle was, “˜Not only are you a great player, you’re a great recruiter.’ It was so fun.”
Fortunately for Howland, the fun may not be over for the Bruins.
Center Tony Parker, the No. 26 player in the nation according to ESPN, is still considering UCLA along with Duke, Georgia, Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis and Ohio State. He will make his decision later this week.
With or without Parker, Howland is thrilled with the current standing of his Bruins.
“The timing with going back into Pauley and we have a really good nucleus that returns next year. … I’m very excited about that,” Howland said.
“With Shabazz, the No. 1 player in the country committing to us and signing his letter of intent (it was) absolutely spectacular for our team, our program and for all Bruin fans.”