Shabazz Muhammad to UCLA
LOS ANGELES -- The most talented offensive player in the Class of 2012 is headed to Westwood. Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman), ESPNU's No. 2 overall recruit, announced Wednesday on ESPN's "Signing Day Special" that he will sign with the Bruins over Kentucky and Duke.
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The addition of the 6-foot-6 Muhammad rockets coach Ben Howland's recruiting class to No. 2 in the class rankings, one slot behind Pac-12 rival Arizona. The Bruins' haul in the early period was constructed around do-it-all small forward Kyle Anderson (Fairview, N.J./St. Anthony's) and scoring maven Jordan Adams (Lawrenceville, Ga./Oak Hill), ranked Nos. 5 and 41, respectively.
"I think he's going to have a tremendous impact," Howland said in a conference call late Wednesday after receiving Muhammad's signed letter of intent. "He's a special, special talent and has so many attributes that will help our team. He's physically strong enough right now to be an impact player right away. He's a great shooter, scorer, very good foul shooter and rebounder. And he's a winner."
Howland then referenced Muhammad's three Nevada state championships and said he is the third national player of the year he has had with the Bruins, joining Kevin Love and Jrue Holiday.
"You look at the impact that those players had and they were huge," Howland said. "Shabazz will undoubtedly have a very impactful season as a freshman."
UCLA had been the perceived leader for Muhammad since last year, but recruiting trips to Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and the burgeoning presence of Muhammad's hometown UNLV program had cast doubt on his final decision. The Bruins were in desperate need of a significant recruiting haul coming off a difficult 19-14 season, which ended with a loss to Arizona in the second round of the Pac-12 tournament.
Howland said it wasn't difficult selling recruits on UCLA, during what has been a rough time for the Bruins the last two seasons, including an unflattering article by Sports Illustrated earlier this year.
"These kids are looking at UCLA as a great opportunity to come and help us rise right back to the top where we expect to be," Howland said.
Muhammad's ability centers on the left-hander's explosion to the rim, his commitment to improving and his overall offensive package. Muhammad was the McDonald's All-American game's Most Valuable Player after scoring 21 points with six rebounds for the West team. Last weekend, he broke the Hoop Summit scoring record with 35 points for the U.S. in a loss to the world All-Stars. After a strong summer in 2011, Muhammad ascended to the No. 1 spot in ESPNU's overall rankings. Muhammad ceded the position to Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./Tilton) when Noel announced he would rejoin his original class and join a college program next season.
Howland was asked how long he expected Muhammad to be at UCLA. Love and Holiday each left after one season.
"It's realistic to think that he could be gone in a year. Max two years," Howland said. "That will ultimately be decided by he and his family at the appropriate time just like any player that is that highly regarded." Muhammad led Bishop Gorman to a state title in his final game in Nevada. His sister is a professional tennis player.
ESPN Los Angeles' Peter Yoon contributed to this report.
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