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UCLA's Ben Howland reacts to Shabazz Muhammad being declared ineligible

November 10, 2012|By Baxter Holmes
  • Ben Howland will continue to use Shabazz Muhammad in practice.
Ben Howland will continue to use Shabazz Muhammad in practice. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Shabazz Muhammad practiced with UCLA for the first time in two weeks Friday.

The plan was that if the NCAA declared the Bruins highly touted freshman guard eligible that day, he would play with the Bruins that night in their season opener against Indiana State at a renovated Pauley Pavilion.

Instead, Muhammad, who has been dealing with a right shoulder injury, was declared ineligible by the NCAA about three hours before tipoff after a lengthy probe uncovered a violation of NCAA amateurism rules.

"We were very optimistic that he was going to be cleared" Friday, UCLA Coach Ben Howland said after his team's 86-59 win against the Sycamores.

But that was not the case.

Howland said he's "very disappointed" in the NCAA's decision but that he hopes the situation will be resolved soon. UCLA is planning to appeal the NCAA's decision, Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said.

Just how many games Muhammad, who was considered the top high school recruit in the nation last year, will miss was not immediately announced, but people close to the situation who aren't authorized to speak publicly said a decision is expected to be announced next week.

When asked how UCLA's team would be affected going forward without Muhammad, Howland said, "You saw our team play tonight. That's what we're doing."

Howland said he'll continue to use Muhammad in practice.

NCAA rules allow a player who has yet to be cleared a 45-day window during investigations in which the player can practice with his team. If a player is not cleared by that time, he must cease participating in team activities until a decision is reached.

Though exact dates aren't known, Muhammad began preliminary workouts with UCLA about a month ago, meaning his 45-day clock would expire after about two more weeks.

UCLA guard Kyle Anderson said he was "really surprised" to learn that Muhammad had been declared ineligible. But Anderson added that Muhammad stayed upbeat, despite the news, during the game.

"He was a great teammate, a great cheerleader on the bench," Anderson said. "That's something that comes with real character."


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