UCLA guard Shabazz Muhammad looks for a lane to the basket against the defense… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
As UCLA prepares to play its first game in the NCAA tournament later tonight, the Bruins will rely on their standout freshman Shabazz Muhammad to lead the way.
Muhammad is under pressure: He must perform well on national television to raise his NBA draft stock, one of his talented teammates is injured and his coach’s future with the team remains uncertain. He told The Times, “If we win, everything will be fine.”
The spotlight was once again on the talented freshman on Friday -- but not in a way he expected. The Times reported that Muhammad is older than has been widely reported.
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According to Muhammad’s birth certificate, he was born Nov. 13, 1992, making him 20 years old. Throughout the college basketball season, his age has been listed and reported as 19.
Friday morning, UCLA changed Muhammad’s birth date on its online roster to reflect his true age. The school had listed him as being born on Nov. 13, 1993, rather than 1992.
The change came two days after The Times alerted UCLA’s athletic department to the discrepancy.
DOCUMENT: Shabazz Muhammad's birth certificate
A spokesman for the university said the previously listed birth date was a mistake or typo and that the school had contacted the athlete’s father, Ron Holmes, and verified that Muhammad is in fact 20. “We’ll make the necessary adjustments to our media guide,” he said.
In a telephone interview this week, Holmes initially told The Times that his son was 19 and born in Nevada, where the family resides. Moments later, Holmes called back and said that in fact Muhammad was 20 and born in Long Beach.
“It must be a mistake,” Holmes said.
When Muhammad’s age was changed, and how it was accomplished, could not be determined.
Muhammad was among the top recruits in the nation coming out of high school, and was named Freshman of the Year in the Pac-12 Conference after leading UCLA in scoring as the Bruins won the regular-season conference title. He has long been projected to be a top pick in June’s NBA draft, meaning he will likely sign a professional contract worth millions of dollars.
Since The Times published its report Friday morning, multiple media outlets have published their own stories speculating on the effect Muhammad’s true age could have on his draft stock and on the influence of the player’s father.
Holmes has spent two decades navigating the cutthroat realm of amateur basketball and college recruiting. He 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, the year was shaved off his son's stated age, giving Muhammad an edge over players in his age group.
Holmes expressed concern about disclosure of his son's true age and questioned whether it was newsworthy.
"Bazz is going to blow up in the NBA lets team up and blow this thing up!!!" Holmes wrote to a Times reporter in a text message. "I'm going to need a publicist anyway why shouldn't it be you. We can do some big things together."