UCLA a mystery until Muhammad cleared

October, 31, 2012
10/31/12
6:20
PM ET

On Wednesday afternoon, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero released a statement on the status of freshman Kyle Anderson.

UCLA was informed by the NCAA earlier today that freshman guard Kyle Anderson is eligible to play this season, and that the NCAA has found no evidence to substantiate claims of violations in his case. I am grateful to all those who were involved in the process. We are looking forward to opening our season on November 9 against Indiana State at New Pauley Pavilion.”

But that wasn’t the statement.

Not even close.

Yes, the addition of Anderson, a 6-foot-9 point forward, matters. His eligibility was at the center of an NCAA probe that focused on possible ties to an agent.

And now that he’s available, Ben Howland has the services of an elite guard/forward who can bring the ball up the floor and create mismatch chaos with his size.

But please call me when the NCAA has something to say about the status of Shabazz Muhammad. Without him, the suspense lingers.

Muhammad, subject of a separate NCAA investigation, is the player who justifies every early projection that sends the Bruins to Atlanta in April and places them in the top-10 in preseason rankings. The Bruins could compete for the conference title in another potentially underwhelming year in the Pac-12 without Muhammad.

With him, the Bruins rival every top-five team on paper. They’re in the championship hardware conversation.

Muhammad is the headliner, though. The prospect who could elevate UCLA basketball to a top-five slot. And just as important, he could help the program remain there throughout the season.

That was the theme when Howland signed the nation’s top recruiting class, per RecruitingNation. Adding Tony Parker, Anderson and Muhammad conjured up the recent memories of UCLA’s three consecutive Final Four trips from 2006-08.

This assembly, many assume, will (would?) go far.

Without Muhammad, however, it’s all questionable.

Anderson, the No. 5 player in RecruitingNation’s top-100 rankings of the 2012 class, was expected to push the ball to Muhammad on fast breaks, as Parker, Josh Smith and the Wear twins (David and Travis) occupied the paint. So much talent on the floor. If they just click -- no guarantee with the Bruins -- few will match them.

The Bruins (ranked sixth in Ken Pomeroy’s 2012-13 preseason rankings) could play faster with Anderson at point guard and Muhammad, a future lottery pick, on the wing. Muhammad is the playmaker that Howland lacked last season.

But Muhammad and Anderson were a package deal. The best-case predictions emphasized their collective potential.

Wednesday’s news, however, does little to resolve the mystery about UCLA’s future. Will Muhammad be available this season or not? When? Why don’t we know yet?

It’s not that Anderson’s arrival is insignificant. He was coveted by top schools throughout the country.

And he’s 6-foot-9 with handles. That’s rare.

But UCLA remains in limbo without word on Muhammad, who will miss the first few weeks of the season with a shoulder injury.

Hopefully another statement will be released soon so the program -- and the college basketball world in general -- can finally move forward.
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