A week ago, the UCLA basketball team’s trip to Brooklyn, N.Y. for the Progressive Legends Classic was considered a potential nightmare.
No. 13 UCLA was about to face a quality Georgetown team with major concerns over the state of its team following an 80-79 overtime victory against UC Irvine.
Fast-forward to today ““ Brooklyn could be the beginning of UCLA’s rise to elite status in college basketball.
The freshman shooting guard was one of the top recruits in the nation coming out of high school, and after a lengthy NCAA investigation into his eligibility, they finally declared him eligible to compete on Friday.
“I am excited to be able to play for UCLA starting next Monday,” Muhammad said in a statement. “My family and friends were very supportive of me throughout this process and I couldn’t have gone through this without them.”
Muhammad was reinstated after being suspended for the first three games of the season because of illegal benefits taken while he was in high school.
Muhammad’s family will have to pay back approximately $1,600 for accepting money from a financial adviser by the name of Benjamin Lincoln, who helped finance unofficial visits for Muhammad to Duke and North Carolina.
“I am relieved that this long, arduous process has come to an end,” coach Ben Howland said. “So many people worked very hard on this case and I am eternally grateful to them as well as the Bruin family, who stood by us throughout. I am pleased that Shabazz will be able to begin his collegiate career.”
Muhammad’s long-awaited arrival will undoubtedly bring a new level of excitement and expectations to UCLA basketball.
The 6-foot-6-inch swingman averaged 29.1 points per game at Bishop Gorman High School last season. He played in several All-American games including the McDonald’s All-American game where he was named the MVP of the contest.
The Bruins’ first test with Muhammad in a UCLA jersey will come against Georgetown (2-0) in what is technically the semifinal of the Progressive Legends Classic; the first round was the game against UC Irvine.
If UCLA defeats Georgetown, they will face either Georgia or No. 1 Indiana in the finals of the tournament.
With Muhammad, UCLA will now be able to really test itself against some of the top competition in the nation. Still, the Bruins believe that the first three games showed that even without Muhammad, they can still compete.
“There are going to be some great teams out there,” said redshirt senior point guard Larry Drew II. “If we play like we did (against James Madison), we’ll be fine.”
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