Arizona basketball notes: Top freshmen classes set to face off
Ashley familiar with UCLA star's skills
UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad, right, drives the lane against Ahmad Starks of Oregon State at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, California, on Thursday, January 17, 2013. UCLA won, 74-64. (Michael Robinson Chavez/ Los Angeles Times)
At one point last year, Arizona had the No. 1 ranked recruiting class. After signing Kaleb Tarczewski, the nation’s No. 4 ranked prospect according to ESPN.com, and Grant Jerrett, a Top 10 recruit, plus Brandon Ashley (top 15) and Gabe York (65th), heaps of praise went to head coach Sean Miller for his impressive haul.
Then UCLA’s Ben Howland signed Shabazz Muhammad, the No. 2 overall prospect and an early candidate for the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Tony Parker make up the No. 1 class in the nation and are a big reason why Miller said he believes UCLA to be one of the most talented teams in the nation, despite its early season struggles.
“Like all of us with freshmen, regardless of how talented they are, it takes a while,” Miller said, adding that the Bruins have turned their season around after starting 8-3.
“I think UCLA has really progressed and they’re one of the best teams in the country now.”
A big reason for the Bruins’ slow start was the absence of Muhammad, who was held out of the first three games of the season due to recruiting-related violations.
Though he was a little rusty on his return, Muhammad has turned it around and in the last 10 games has scored 19 points per contest, including six 20-point efforts. UCLA is 9-1 in that span, which included nine game winning streak, ending with a loss to No. 16 Oregon on Saturday.
Not exactly hyped for his 3-point shooting, Muhammad leads the Pac-12 with an impressive 45.8 percentage from beyond the arc.
Ashley played against Muhammad while in high school in Las Vegas — Ashley attended Findlay Prep, and Muhammad attended Bishop Gorman. Ashley also played with Muhammad in various All-Star games, so he’s well aware of what Muhammad can do.
“He’s a very versatile player,” Ashley said. “He’s shooting a very high percentage from three this year, so he’s improved on that. Just the fact that he has size and strength, he can attack from the wing or he can post you up. He’s talented.”
Anderson and Adams are dangerous in their own right, too.
Adams is second on UCLA in scoring at 15.2 points per game.
Anderson is a rare point-forward hybrid. At 6-foot-9, he can bring the ball up the floor better than most players his size. He gets 9.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
If you go:
No. 6 Arizona against UCLA
When: Thursday, Jan. 24, 7 p.m.
Where: McKale Center