Shabazz Muhammad, the nation’s co-top rated high school basketball recruit along with Nerlens Noel, is making his college decision known tonight, as he is down to UCLA, Kentucky and Duke, with a consensus lean to Westwood to suit up for Ben Howland’s Bruins. The announcement is slated for 4:30pm Pacific, on a trio of ESPN networks, including ESPNU.
When the recruiting of Shabazz began at what we can now classify as “years” ago, the Trojans were well in the mix, along with his hometown school, UNLV. But much has changed over the last few months, mostly stemming from allegations that Muhammad had ties to improper benefits. Since then, North Carolina fell out of the running, alongside USC and UNLV, even though as of March 1, the Trojans were still courting Muhammad despite the allegations.
UCLA has been the favorite for Shabazz Muhammad for months, and would be the first coup for Howland since Jrue Holliday, at the fringe of when UCLA basketball began a lull, at least with their expectations. If the Bruins get Shabazz, they’ll likely be picked high in the Pac-12 again, much like this past year, and will prove that Howland is once again out-recruiting the Trojans.
Shabazz would have been the first lottery pick recruit for the Trojans since DeMar DeRozan signed with USC back in 2008, when the Trojans boasted two consecutive elite recruiting classes under Tim Floyd. But, USC doesn’t have the pull on the hardwood that UCLA does, as a guy like Muhammad is going to go to UCLA or Kentucky 99 percent of the time, considering that so coaches like Ben Howland and John Calipari are privy to the idea of recruiting the one-and-done players built for an immediate hop to the NBA.
O.J. Mayo and the aforementioned DeRozan, USC just can’t get those guys. Mayo and Rodney Guillory recruited their own way to Troy, and DeRozan chose USC as it was close to his home in Compton. Until USC can put a proven winner on the court, convincing top recruits to don the Cardinal & Gold for one year will be an obstacle, as seen with the pursuit of Alex Oriakhi.
Shifting gears, Shabazz is the son of Ron Holmes, who played at USC from 1981 to 1985, but with USC out of the mix, it hasn’t played a factor during the recruitment of Muhammad. Should Shabazz decide to go to UCLA, he’ll join a long list of recent players with familial ties to either USC or UCLA, to play for the other, mostly notably in football.
Ryan Nece, Ronnie Lott’s son played with the Bruins from 1997 to 2001, giving one of the proudest Trojans of all-time, a tough decision to make on Saturdays. The brothers of Petros Papadakis, Marshall Jones and T.J. McDonald played at UCLA in the Rick Neuheisel years, and Malcolm Jones and Tevin McDonald will continue at UCLA this fall under Coach Jim L. Mora.
On the contrary, USC’s had their fair share of players from the UCLA community, with the most notable recent player being Marc Tyler, the son of UCLA great Wendell Tyler. If you want to look at coaches, look no further than Henry Bibby, who played at UCLA under Coach John Wooden, coached at USC for a decade from 1995 to 2005, and took the Trojans to the Elite Eight in 2001. Also, Rick Neuheisel holds a graduate degree from USC’s law school, despite an bachelors from UCLA while playing there in the 1980s, and coaching the Bruins from 2008 to 2011.