UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad won’t go to China while NCAA investigates latimes.com/sports/sportsn…
— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) August 15, 2012
As much as we may want to believe Shabazz Muhammad’s decision will focus on comfort with a program, relationship with the Coach and staff, and dare I say, educational opportunities, my take is none of the listed is in play. This is nothing more than Adidas versus Nike. It is no secret the shoe/apparel giants exert significant influence in the AAU circuit, it is also growing clear their collective influence has leaked deep into the college ranks.
Back in late February reports surfaced via Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman (CBSSports.com) that the recruitment of Muhammad was “under investigation”. Allegations of Muhammad’s father on the Adidas payroll and the shoe company’s sponsorship of his sister (Asia) tennis career as payment in advance. As recently as April 5th, Asia Muhammad tweeted “Walking around UCLA! No idea where I’m going”.
My guess is this “decision” is long since rendered, and the past few months have been nothing more than a suspense building project. Shabazz Muhammad to UCLA has long been a done deal. Ben Howland has sold his soul (or perhaps had his soul delivered by the AD) to the devil (aka Adidas) for the single season services of a player (Shabazz Muhammad) who may find a piece (if not his whole) season in jeopardy. Make no bones about it, the NCAA is eager to drop the hammer on the AAU/Shoe Company/College athletics program link. The moment Muhammad signs his Letter of Intent the school with which he signs will be under sudden and strong scrutiny.
Shabazz Muhammad may put together an excellent collegiate/professional basketball career, and may indeed have little control over what’s going down with his recruitment. Come the end of the day he may just be an 18-year-old kid looking to play ball, but if this mess progresses as I expect we’ll remember Bazz less for his on the court game and more for the game his “handlers” and family attempted, and may have successfully, run on the NCAA and its fans. It will be fascinating to look back in a few years and evaluate if this is the deal, not the Derrick Rose to Memphis debacle, which finally brings this impressive house of cards to its inevitable and messy end.