Howland: Muhammad off to NBA

Updated: March 3, 2013, 2:42 AM ET
By Peter Yoon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad played his last game in Pauley Pavilion on Saturday night in a 74-69 victory against No. 11 Arizona, Bruins coach Ben Howland said after the game.

Muhammad is a projected NBA lottery pick and it long has been assumed he'd leave college after one season, but Howland confirmed the obvious after his team moved back into a tie for first place in the Pac-12 Conference. The Bruins finish the season with road games next week at Washington State and Washington, meaning Saturday was the last home game for UCLA.

"That was his last game in Pauley, no doubt about it," Howland said.

Muhammad scored his season average of 18 points in his home swan song, including the game-sealing free throws with nine seconds to play. He said he briefly thought about those being his last moments in Pauley, but wasn't ready to fully commit to entering the NBA draft.

"It's still a long season of basketball," Muhammad said. "We don't know yet. I kind of thought about it. I just thought about the big win we're going to have and how important this win was for us against Arizona."

Toward the end of the game, fans began chanting "one more year" for Muhammad in hopes of enticing him to come back. Howland, however, isn't getting his hopes up. He said he held out hope that both Kevin Love and Jrue Holiday would return for a second season, but both players left after their freshman years.

I knew going into this deal that this was a one-year deal, and it should be. He's a lottery pick. He's a top-five pick.

-- Ben Howland on Shabazz Muhammad

Muhammad will do the same, according to Howland.

"I'm very much a realist now," Howland said. "I knew going into this deal that this was a one-year deal, and it should be. He's a lottery pick. He's a top-five pick. When you have that going for you, it is absolutely the right thing."

Muhammad said he heard the chants from the crowd Saturday and then waxed sentimental about his season at Pauley.

"The fans here are great," he said. "I've enjoyed myself this whole year. I've been going through a lot this year with injuries and just getting experience at the college level. I'm really happy I came here and represented UCLA because it's a great school and I just gained a lot of experience coming here. It's great."

Peter Yoon

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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