Muhammad trying to get in step
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
College freshmen always face a learning curve. But no one could have predicted how sharp Shabazz Muhammad’s would be.
The most prized member of UCLA’s highly touted recruiting class has battled injuries and NCAA eligibility concerns to get to this point: He’s finally able to play basketball games.
While that’s something for Muhammad and the Bruins to celebrate, it’s just the beginning of a long, tough road.
In Muhammad’s first two games, against Georgetown and Georgia in the Legends Classic in New York, he scored a total of 36 points. The numbers are a bit misleading; most of Muhammad’s 15 points against Georgetown came late with the outcome all but decided, and his 21 against Georgia led all scorers and seemed bigger than they actually were.
UCLA split the games, which were played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But more important for the Bruins and coach Ben Howland, they saw flashes of Muhammad’s bright future, glimpses of what makes him the potential top pick in June’s NBA draft. He played more aggressively and says he felt more comfortable on the court.
“We’ve got a lot to look forward to,” Howland said after UCLA beat Georgia 60-56.
Then Sunday came, and with it a two-point loss at home to Cal Poly, a team that finished 18-15 last season and completed its first winning season since 2006-07. In Sunday’s game — which was easily the upset of the season to date — Muhammad grabbed 10 rebounds and scored 15 points for his first career double-double but shot 4-for-13 from the field in his debut at Pauley Pavilion.
The Bruins, who led by 18 points in the second half, dropped to 4-2 and fell to 24th in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll. UCLA also announced junior guard Tyler Lamb is transferring. Lamb, one of the few experienced players on the roster, started 32 games last season but has not played since the opener because of knee issues after surgery in October.
“It’s a long season,” Muhammad said. “We have to learn from it.”
Ups and downs
Just as UCLA has had ups and a lot of downs to start the season, … [For more on Muhammad trying to get in step, click here.]