Shabazz Muhammad, above, and fellow freshman Kyle Anderson can participate… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
Though the UCLA basketball team does not start preseason practice until Friday, highly touted freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson have already begun preliminary workouts, which means the clock is ticking on their eligibility.
The NCAA has yet to declare them eligible pending the conclusion of dual investigations.
In the meantime, the rules allow them to participate with the team for 45 days. Either they are cleared by that time or they must cease working with the program until the matter is resolved.
Muhammad stayed home as the Bruins toured China in August so that his eligibility window would not open until now. It was unclear as to why Anderson — who performed well in three exhibition games overseas — could play without starting the clock.
University officials declined to comment and have not made either player available to reporters.
The NCAA is looking into alleged benefits that Muhammad received from the brother of an assistant coach at his high school and at his relationship with a financial planner who helped fund his Las Vegas-based travel team. His family has previously claimed that both men were longtime friends and thus permitted under NCAA rules to offer financial aid.
Anderson's case involves a reported relationship with Thad Foucher, an agent who works with Arn Tellem at the Wasserman Media Group.
At this point, it appears the freshmen would be eligible for UCLA's season opener against Indiana State on Nov. 9. If their cases are not resolved, their futures beyond that point would be in question.
Teammates say they are trying not to look too far ahead.
"That's the million-dollar question around campus — all the kids are excited, asking when Shabazz can play," center Joshua Smith said. "I'm like, 'I know as much as you do.'"
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