The beleaguered Pac-12 basketball conference got a shot in the arm Wednesday afternoon with an announcement on ESPNU by Las Vegas prep star Shabazz Muhammad that he’s choosing UCLA for his 2012-13 destination over Kentucky and Duke.
That (a) strengthens the conference’s damaged profile and (b) makes it a little tougher for 11 other teams with various competitive designs next year. Arizona had widely been accorded the favorite’s role, with a recruiting class that had rated No. 1 nationally (at least through much of the season), but that may not be the case now.
Longtime Long Beach writer/scout Frank Burlison told me recently, referring to the Pac-12 race, “If UCLA gets Shabazz Muhammad, they’re pretty clearly the favorite to win it.”
Dave Telep of RecruitingNation calls Muhammad, an explosive 6-6 player, the most gifted offensive player in the class of 2012 and the No. 2 recruit overall. He says the announcement jumps UCLA to the No. 2 class in the country behind Arizona, because Muhammad joins a great passer in St. Anthony’s (N.J.) small forward Kyle Anderson, and a fine scorer in Jordan Adams of Oak Hill Academy.
Muhammad was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game with 21 points.
We all know there aren’t any guarantees with one-and-done players, which Muhammad is assumed to be. But it’s a huge shot in the arm for a Bruins program riddled only six weeks ago by the controversial Sports Illustrated expose uncovering a lapse of discipline and favoritism in Ben Howland’s program.