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How UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad was groomed for stardom by father

March 22, 2013|By Ken Bensinger
  • Shabazz Muhammad led the Bruins in scoring, made first team All Pac-12 and was named the conference's freshman of the year.
Shabazz Muhammad led the Bruins in scoring, made first team All Pac-12 and… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Ron Holmes has spent two decades making sure that his son, UCLA basketball star Shabazz Muhammad, will one day play for the pros.

When UCLA takes the court Friday night against Minnesota in its NCAA basketball tournament opener, fans may be getting their last look at Shabazz Muhammad in Bruin blue and gold.

Every thunderous dunk and arching three-pointer will help show why he led the team in scoring, made first team All Pac-12 and was named the conference's freshman of the year.

Holmes made sure Muhammad worked out with some of the sport's finest trainers. He enrolled his son in one of the nation's best high school basketball programs. He helped create a team tailored to showcase his boy's strengths in the high-profile summer circuit. And somewhere along the line, a year was shaved off his son's stated age, giving Muhammad an edge over players in his age group.

But Holmes' real genius has been navigating the cutthroat realm of college basketball. It's a world in which school athletic departments, coaches and TV networks reap millions while young athletes, in Holmes words, are left with "crumbs."

Holmes, who played as a standout guard for USC in the early 1980s, decided long ago that he would make the system work for him.

For years, Holmes has tirelessly promoted the Shabazz Muhammad brand to scouts, journalists, money managers and others. Holmes navigated every difficulty, including a potentially devastating NCAA sanction that ultimately sidelined his son for only a few games.

With Muhammad now projected as a top-five pick in June's NBA draft, Holmes' investment is about to pay off.

"Basketball is a business, and he handled everything — all the coaches, all the scouts," said Grant Rice, Muhammad's coach at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. "He took care of his son."

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ken.bensinger@latimes.com

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