UCLA star Muhammad expected to make NBA jump
LOS ANGELES — Shabazz Muhammad was UCLA’s prized possession in its vaunted 2012 recruiting class and it was all but expected that he would be one-and-done before the season even started.
On Saturday, Muhammad sat on the podium during the press conference, alongside Larry Drew II and Kyle Anderson, two Bruins teammates who also might have just played in their last game at Pauley Pavilion.
After UCLA (22-7, 12-4 Pac-12) defeated Arizona 74-69 on Saturday — the Bruins’ last home game — head coach Ben Howland wasn’t shy admitting he had probably coached Muhammad at the Pavilion for the last time.
“He is a lottery pick,” Howland said. “That was his last game at Pauley, no doubt about it.”
Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA vs UCLA
Muhammad scored a game-high 18 points against the Wildcats, and his 18.3 points per game this season are good for second-best in the Pac-12, behind Cal’s Allen Crabbe. He hit two free throws with nine seconds left to put the game away, and toward the end of the game, the crowd started chanting, “One more year!”
Not a chance.
He is projected as a likely top-five NBA draft pick, and was the No.1-ranked recruit by Rivals.com coming in. The guard-forward, from Las Vegas, said he “kinda thought about” the possibility that it was his last game at Pauley Pavilion.
When asked directly about it being his last home game, he didn’t exactly deny it and said it’s a “long season of basketball.”
“The fans here are great,” Muhammad said. “I’ve enjoyed myself this whole year and I’ve been going through a lot this year with injuries … I’m just really happy I came here and represented UCLA because it’s a great school.”
As for his teammates, Drew is a senior, but Anderson, the No. 3 recruit, is another highly-touted freshman with the talent and skill set to make the jump to the NBA.
At 6-foot-9, he has the ability to both run the point and play power forward.
“I’m not really thinking about that,” Anderson said. “I’m too caught up in the season and what we can do to get better every day. But I’m not thinking about what’s going on after the season.
Against Arizona, he had 17 points, and on the season he gets 10.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
Drew, the Pac-12’s assist leader, had 14 points and nine assists against the Wildcats.
UCLA closes out its season at Washington State on Wednesday and Washington on Saturday.