Most of the Shabazz Muhammad news that's fit to print in recent weeks has been pro-UCLA. First, a Scout.com report ($) indicated that Muhammad, along with fellow Kentucky target Tony Parker, was leaning towards the Bruins. Then, a FOX Sports West story quoted Muhammad as saying:
"Losing is a bad thing to do, but UCLA is a good program. I like Ben Howland and Coach (Phil) Mathews but they're still there and I'm still looking at them really hard."
Even with all the rumors swirling, Kentucky head coach John Calipari isn't giving up. Coach Cal swung by Las Vegas recently to watch Muhammad (who plays for Bishop Gorman), along with Anthony Bennett (who plays for nearby Findlay Prep). After Calipari's visit, Nation of Blue's Garrett Tucker caught up with Muhammad's father, Ron Holmes, to ask about the rumors. Holmes refuted the notion that Muhammad has already decided to sign with UCLA.
"Well, apparently they haven't talked to Shabazz or myself about it yet. We haven't hinted at a leader or anything like that. And we are not leaning anywhere. A month ago, UNLV led; the month before that, Kentucky led; then, before that, UCLA was the leader, if you go by what people say. We haven't said anything about leaders."
Holmes also mentioned that Muhammad is still planning on taking visits to Duke (scheduled for March 3), Arizona, and Kansas. Muhammad officially visited Kentucky for Big Blue Madness in October, and has taken enough unofficial visits to nearby programs UNLV and UCLA that he doesn't feel the need to take an official.
The latest scuttlebutt comes from The Cats Pause ($), where Chris Fisher talks about...shoes? Yes, shoes.
Word is that adidas is looking to place Muhammad on its Mount Rushmore of athletes that already includes the likes of Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and the aging Tim Duncan, with a shoe deal to put in his back pocket until his college days are through.
Can Kentucky, a Nike school, compete with a pair of pumped up kicks? Fisher doesn't expressly state that Adidas would be the reason for Muhammad to choose UCLA--merely a reason. UCLA coach Ben Howland has been much maligned for his recent failures at the collegiate level, but he does have a track record of producing successful pros, with Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook being the most notable one-and-done examples.
Muhammad is a good enough basketball player that he's likely to succeed no matter which school he plays for, whether it be a thriving blue blood program like Kentucky or Duke or a bleeding program like UCLA. But even if Howland lands Muhammad, Bruins Nation is rightfully asking what the future holds for a "deeply dysfunctional and sick basketball program under a basketball coach who has lost his touch and is too stubborn to realize it."
For now, though, it's still not a guarantee that Muhammad even chooses Westwood. Kentucky is still very much in the race, and expect Calipari to keep recruiting until the ink is dry on Muhammad's Letter of Intent.