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Getting to the Bottom of the UCLA Basketball and Shabazz Situation


Things seem a bit out of control on the Shabazz Muhammad eligibility situation and I am not talking about Shabazz or his family. I am talking about the media and rumors. For example, the epic morons at Bleacher Report did a story on "Prep Star Shabazz Muhammad Could Find a Temporary Home in the D-League". Yep according to Bleacher Report, Shabazz is likely done and should start thinking about the D-League (there is a reason why Bruins Nation has a policy to not link to garbage stories like this from Bleacher Report.)

On the flip side Adam Z, who seems to be good at high school stories generally, is being ridiculous the other way when he quotes a source saying this is erring on the side of caution and besides:

"He has class," the source said. "He's not going to miss that for China."

Ah, Shabazz is not missing the China trip because he wants to go to class. Moving beyond the so bad it is comical extremes what is really going on? Well, let me do my best to answer a few likely questions.

Didn't the LA Times quote Shabazz as saying things were going well? What happened?

Yes but during an investigation the subject of an investigation should never try to speak for the judge or judicial authority as if he knows their mind. UCLA finally did the right thing and issued a measured statement:

"UCLA men's basketball student-athlete Shabazz Muhammad will not accompany the team on its upcoming trip to China as the NCAA continues its initial eligibility review of Muhammad. Muhammad, his family and UCLA will continue to work with the NCAA during this process. The University is unable to comment further at this time."

No competent athletic department would let Shabazz talk about this topic to the media. Another strike against Chanti Dan. They need to protect the players which they failed to do initially here.

Again what is this about?

As the Dime put it (emphasis on non-names mine):

The unresolved issues are:

- Is Geoff Lincoln, the brother of an Gorman High assistant coach, really a family friend since 2007? He's a financial planner in North Carolina who Muhammad's father, Ron Holmes, says became close to the family when the prep phenom was in seventh grade.

- And is Kevin Kavanagh, a New York financial planner, also able to claim he's a family friend? Kavanagh financed the Dream Vision Foundation team. Kavanagh said in February to CBS he played with Holmes back in the San Diego area long before Muhammad was born.

The NCAA, reported as being skeptical then about the involvement, still is. The question is, how confident should UCLA be they'll get Muhammad's concerns satisfied with the NCAA by the beginning of the season? Sure, Pac-12 games won't begin until Jan. 3, but a Nov. 19 matchup against Georgetown at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, with either Georgia or Indiana the next night, and neutral-site games against San Diego State (December 1) and Texas (December 8 ) will sneak up very soon

Did UCLA do anything wrong in the recruitment of Shabazz?

No evidence or public allegations have been made. What I mean by this is there so far has been zero allegations that UCLA has done anything wrong in the recruitment of Shabazz and there are some circumstantial reasons to believe otherwise as in the fact Sports Illustrated did a proctology exam on the program and did not find that particular problem.

Is UCLA itself in any danger from the NCAA?

Yep. It is never good idea to have the NCAA investigating you. Moreover they have to be cautious and not play Shabazz until this is resolved because doing so would retroactively be labeled playing an ineligible player. UCLA has been warned on Shabazz. As the Daily Bruin succinctly put it:

If UCLA used Muhammad in the exhibition game, and he was later marked as ineligible, there could be penalties for the Bruins.

Is there reason to worry that Shabazz could miss a significant part of the season?

I cannot guess the minds of the NCAA. However, this should give pause to all UCLA fans for Shabazz playing anytime soon for UCLA:

The NCAA does not comment on specific investigations. But NCAA officials told USA TODAY Sports last month that it was investigating several summer-league basketball programs as it attempts to curtail the influence of third-party individuals who often donate money to AAU programs in an effort to gain influence over top players.

In other words, although I hope it won't happen, Shabazz could be made an example of.

Is Howland unlucky that this happened?

Nestor and Ryan have a really good point that Howland and UCLA rolled the dice when they took Shabazz as the NCAA warned them they were investigating Shabazz. As Nestor wrote in part recently:

As for Shabbazz - it shouldn't be a surprise to Ben either. NCAA had already warned schools earlier in the year that were recruiting him that there were questions around him. Ryan specifically blogged about it here on BN.

So I expect Howland to be prepared for it. No one should feel sorry for him. He just needs to get it done.

What does it mean?

First for those who are not fans of Chanti Dan enjoy a possible irony. Many think Chanit Dan kept Howland because of Shabazz. If Shabazz does not play or play much, yet another misstep by Chianti Dan.

But really ESPN hit the nail on the head for the season (bold mine):

This was supposed to be an all optimism, all the time sort of summer for UCLA, during which an insanely talented freshman class could fully assert itself within a struggling Bruins program without having to wait until November to do so. Now, with Muhammad facing eligibility concerns and Parker injured, this team may have to learn on the fly come November.

No, these are not positive signs. But nor are they death knells. They're merely more questions surrounding what is now unquestionably the single biggest risk-reward entity in the upcoming college hoops season. Stay tuned.

Go Bruins.