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Shabazz Muhammad chooses UCLA

Bishop Gorman senior makes college announcement to much fanfare on ESPNU

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Sam Morris

Bishop Gorman’s Shabazz Muhammad sails in for a dunk against Legacy during their Sunset Regional semifinal game Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012. Gorman won 73-43.

Updated Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | 7:34 p.m.

Shabazz Muhammad picks UCLA

KSNV coverage of Bishop Gorman high school basketball player Shabazz Muhammad picking UCLA over Kentucky and Duke, April 11, 2012.

The most prolific high school basketball player in Las Vegas history won’t stray far from home for his college career.

Bishop Gorman senior Shabazz Muhammad, the nation’s top prospect according to Rivals.com, announced Wednesday that he would attend UCLA next year. UCLA edged Kentucky and Duke to land Muhammad, who also considered UNLV and Kansas before trimming his list last month.

"It was so hard with the three schools I had," Muhammad said on television immediately after the announcement. "I'll still really love and will be a fan of Kentucky and Duke, but I'm happy to be a Bruin."

Muhammad revealed his college choice live on ESPNU from Charlotte, N.C., where he’s participating in the Jordan Brand Classic. The announcement concludes one of the most dissected recruitments in recent years on the first day of the spring signing period.

Muhammad was on the national radar since his freshman year at Gorman. By the time he was a junior, Muhammad had scholarship offers from every top-level basketball program in the country.

"I could tell the decision has been weighing on him the last two or three weeks," Gorman coach Grant Rice said. "I think he's really excited it's over."

"There's been a lot of pressure on him all year with all these schools coming at him in different ways. There was the hometown pressure to stay here and be the hometown hero. That's tough to deal with, and then there were several of the best coaches in college basketball coming to sell him on their program. It gets to the point where there are so many good options that it's confusing and you don't know what to do."

Muhammad spoke highly of UCLA coach Ben Howland throughout the entire process. In the end, the relationship with Howland served as a deciding factor.

“I just think how comfortable I was with the coach,” Muhammad said. “That’s what it really came down to.”

Howland led the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours from 2005-2008. UCLA has missed the NCAA Tournament in two of the four years since and hasn’t advanced beyond the first weekend.

Muhammad will look to change that next year.

“I think it’s a challenge knowing how bad they were these last two years," Muhammad said. "It’s a challenge to really get them back to the top."

Muhammad’s commitment boosted the rank of UCLA’s recruiting class to No. 3 in the nation, according to ESPN, behind only Kentucky and Arizona.

The Bruins already had commitments from incoming blue-chip prospects Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, which Muhammad said influenced his decision.

“There’s a lot of bits and pieces that could make it a really great team,” he said.

Muhammad averaged 29 points and 10 rebounds in leading Gorman to its third state championship in four years this season. Two of the other stars on that team, Ben Carter and Rosco Allen, will become Pac 12 rivals to Muhammad next season.

Carter is headed to Oregon, while Allen committed to Stanford. Rice looks forward to watching the three former teammates face off against each other, especially at the Pac 12 tournament which relocates to the MGM Grand Garden Arena next season.

"I'm happy they'll all be on the west coast," Rice said. "I think it's a good thing for a lot of people who want to watch them play."

Muhammad is widely viewed as NBA-ready — at least one mock draft projects him as the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft — meaning it's a long shot he'll spend more than one year at UCLA.

It’s also possible that Muhammad could miss time during his freshman season because of an NCAA investigation. According to a CBSSports.com report, the NCAA alerted schools recruiting Muhammad about questions regarding his amateur status earlier this year.

But that wasn’t the topic of conversation Wednesday. It was a celebration of one of the most heralded high school athletes in the country taking the next step in his career.

Muhammad offered a final message to UCLA fans before departing the ESPN set.

“Everybody in Westwood, L.A., California, get ready for a really good season, a really exciting season,” Muhammad said. “Hopefully, we can sell out Pauley (Pavilion).”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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  1. Maybe he was one of those mistakenly told they'd been admitted to UCLA...

    "UCLA officials are apologizing after the university mistakenly told nearly 900 high school seniors they were going to be Bruins next year."

    Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national...

    WOOPS!

  2. Seeing as how UCLA is our feeder school, I look at this as a positive development!

  3. The writing was on the wall. Adidas was the highest bidder. I hope the investigation nails Holmes and Shabought.

  4. I really hope we schedule UCLA while he is still there....it would break the all-time attendance record when David "The Admiral" Robinson's Navy squad came to town.
    I still love our system, our history, our coach...no bad mouthing Coach Rice. Once we start to dominate the MWC it's inevitable (with the loss of BYU, TCU, SDSU, Utah, Boise State), time to jump to a BCS conference preferably the Pac 12.
    We'll take L.A. kids and they can take ours. It would be nice if some of the ex-players and strip talent would show up for these games, we could blow Kentucky and the aging Ashley Judd away. Showtime would return. Hopefully the first incoming class especially Katin Reinhardt and the disolvement of the MWC channel will lead to a brighter future.
    Let's get Bennet!

  5. Muhammad spoke highly of UCLA coach Ben Howland throughout the entire process. In the end, the relationship with Howland served as a deciding factor.

    "I just think how comfortable I was with the coach," Muhammad said. "That's what it really came down to."

    --------------------------

    What the hell was Coach Rice doing? How could he let someone from UCLA get closer to a kid that's coached by his own brother?! Only an idiot would allow that...it wasn't like Shabazz wasn't on the radar until this year. And for those who suggest Adidas was in his pocket...well everyone knows that game and when your brother is the coach of the recruit, you would know who's sniffing around....and get your sponsors to back your brother's HS team to give you an even better leg up on the competition. Why there's no coordination of recruiting efforts in the Rice household is beyond me!