“I immediately regret this decision.” -Ron Burgundy and Shabazz Muhammed
ESPN’s college basketball page is plastered with an image of a miserable UCLA player. No, not Shabazz. Someone different. Maybe someone who remembered when UCLA was great, and has reason to be disappointed. Because regardless of what they used to be, even four years ago, now they’re just, well… miserable.
So far this season, the Bruins have escaped UC Irvine by one point in overtime, then lost to Georgetown during their early season tournament. That’s bad, but it’s not awful. The real kicker, though, is last night’s blown lead against Cal Poly, who to this point has losses to TCU and Fresno State. UCLA, at one point up 51-33, lost 70-68. This is a Gardner-Webb type loss. The only difference is, Howland isn’t a new coach, and the Bruins had the number one recruiting class in the nation. And they still can’t win.
Shabazz did fairly well in those games, and so far is averaging 17 points per game. But he has to battle his teammates, and his coach, in order to will this team to victory. Kyle Anderson is not a point guard. Josh Smith can’t get his weight under three bills. Howland can’t motivate. It’s a bad situation for an otherwise talented player.
Cal doesn’t need to counter-recruit. He does what he does, and he doesn’t have to talk badly about other coaches in order to get recruits. But if he did, well, Shabazz would be the perfect example. He could have been at Kentucky right now, playing alongside teammates who give each other piggy back rides when they get hurt. It seems silly, but just that little gesture shows the difference in programs; Cal is able to develop a team that plays for each other more than themselves. More than losses to Cal Poly, that’s what has to make a player in Muhammed’s situation envious.
It’s almost appropriate to feel bad for Shabazz. At this point, he would have been better off staying in Las Vegas and playing for 3-1 UNLV. He at least would have had Anthony Bennett (averaging 20 and 8) to play alongside instead of the underachieving trio of Smith and the Wear Twins.
We won’t say “Told you so,” Shabazz, but don’t say we didn’t warn you. But hey, look on the bright side: at least you might sell out some home games.