Skip to content

Unfair to rush to any judgement on UCLA after Shabazz’s first game

Nov 20, 2012, 12:18 AM EDT

Legends Classic - UCLA v Georgetown Getty Images

BROOKLYN – All things considered, Shabazz Muhammad didn’t play too badly in his first game as a collegian.

He finished with 15 points on 5-10 shooting in 25 minutes of action, although a couple of those buckets came in the final minute with the outcome, a 78-70 loss to Georgetown in the semifinals of the Legends Classic, all-but decided. He only grabbed one rebound, which is concerning given his strength and athleticism, and he was no where near the player that he needs to be on the defensive end of the floor. He was a long way from good, and he certainly didn’t come close to the reputation he had built for himself coming into the game.

This wass supposed to be a top three pick, mind you, and top three picks aren’t supposed to look as consistently over-matched as Muhammad did on both ends of the floor tonight.

And Muhammad will tell you the same thing.

“I can get a lot better. I didn’t play well tonight. I didn’t play well on defense,” Muhammad told reporters after the game.

That’s understandable. This was Muhammad’s first college basketball game after spending the past six months dealing with NCAA investigations into his time as a high schooler. He suffered a high-ankle sprain that kept him out for nine weeks over the summer. He didn’t practice with the team before they went to China. He didn’t go with the team to China. The first chance he had to practice was about a month ago, and in that time he’s dealt with a shoulder injury that kept him from being able to play, lift, or work on his conditioning for half that time.

He’s out of shape, out of sync with his teammates and, quite frankly, probably rusty.

And you thought he was going to come in here and look like James Harden did in his first game with the Rockets?

“It was really exciting getting out on the court for the first time,” Muhammad said when asked how he felt about his debut. “Just finally getting the jitters out and getting comfortable playing college basketball for the first time was a good experience.”

“I’m trying to get out here and gel with my teammates for the first time. My first college game, trying to get used to playing with all these players.”

It’s not like Muhammad is a piece getting plugged into an experienced team, either. Kyle Anderson is a freshman. Larry Drew II is a transfer that is playing for the first time in 20 months. Norman Powell is starting for the first time in his college career. Jordan Adams, who has scored at least 20 points in all four games as a collegian, is also a freshman.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Bruins have been dealt a bad hand when it comes to injuries. Muhammad has already dealt with ankle and shoulder issues. Kyle Anderson missed a couple months over the summer after thumb surgery. Tony Parker didn’t play on Monday due to a back issue. Tyler Lamb hasn’t returned to the court yet after getting surgery on his knee.

In other words, Muhammad isn’t the only one that needs to gel on this team.

It’s a group that doesn’t necessarily fit together perfectly with a coach who isn’t necessarily built to handle a team with their strengths. They were shredded defensively by Georgetown’s Princeton-style offense, which is not something you typically see from a Ben Howland-coached team. They looked lost offensively against Georgetown’s zone. They didn’t run the floor well at all. The 16 offensive rebounds they collected were nice, but the 60% Georgetown shot from the floor in the second half wasn’t.

“We are a team that is very young and we got hurt defensively,” Howland said. “They shot 55% from the game, 60% for the second half. Those two stats jump out.”

I spent the preseason doing nothing but send up warning flares that UCLA had dumpster fire potential written all over them.

And while I would love to take this time to revel in the fact that I was, once again, right, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that there were some positives to take out of this game.

First and foremost, Drew looks like a different player than they one that flamed out at North Carolina. He now has 33 assists and just six turnovers in 135 minutes this season. He got in the lane and created, he found shooters on the secondary break, he got the ball to his teammates where they needed it and when they needed it, and, most importantly, he did nothing dumb to hurt them. In the end, that’s all he really needs to do.

The other thing I liked was the way Howland used Anderson in the second half. There’s no question that Anderson is one of the more unique talents in the country, but asking him to be a primary ball-handler at this level is unfair. He’s not going to be blowing by players like Otto Porter and Greg Whittington off the dribble. Where he is effective, however, is as a playmaker out of the high post. When UCLA cut Georgetown’s lead to four in the second half, it’s because Anderson got them easy shot after easy shot against a 2-3 zone.

The Wears are capable up front, Josh Smith and Tony Parker can provide muscle when need be, and Muhammad, Adams and Powell provide as much scoring punch on the wing as you’ll find anywhere in the country.

There are still plenty of pieces that need to fall into place for this group.

But if you’re a UCLA fan, now is not the time to be selling off your season tickets, and judging them too harshly off of their first game with Muhammad in the fold is unfair.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Latest Posts
  1. West defeats East 118-116 in the Jordan Brand Classic

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:23 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Cheick Diallo won named MVP for both the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic.

  2. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg undergoes successful open heart surgery

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Hoiberg just completed his fifth season at Iowa State.

  3. Gonzaga big man to return for senior season

    Apr 17, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Domantas Sabonis previously announced he would return.

  4. Top plays from the Jordan Brand Classic practice

    Apr 17, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    diallo

    The Jordan Brand Classic is Friday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

  5. Duke among list of candidates for graduate transfer guard

    Apr 17, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The former Villanova guard cut his list to eight.

  6. Mountain West gives New Mexico guard Cullen Neal medical hardship year

    Apr 17, 2015, 4:23 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Thanks to this ruling Neal will have three years of eligibility remaining.

  7. 2016 shooting guard Mustapha Heron de-commits from Pittsburgh

    Apr 17, 2015, 3:19 PM EDT

    adidas adidas

    Heron, who committed to Pitt back in January 2014, says he will continue to consider Jamie Dixon’s program.

  8. Four-star guard becomes Avery Johnson’s first commitment as Alabama head coach

    Apr 17, 2015, 1:31 PM EDT

    Avery Johnson Avery Johnson

    Dazon Ingram joins Brandon Austin and Donta Hall, both of whom remained committed following the firing of Anthony Grant, in Alabama’s 2015 class.

  9. Former Florida guard discusses Billy Donovan’s potential as an NBA head coach on ‘Dan Patrick Show’ (VIDEO)

    Apr 17, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Beal spoke highly of his college coach, including how a possible adjustment would go should Donovan decide to try his hand at the NBA game.

  10. Kansas State announces dismissal of forward Malek Harris from program

    Apr 17, 2015, 12:19 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Harris is the fifth departure from the Kansas State program since the end of the season.

  11. Albany’s Peter Hooley to give commencement speech at school’s graduation in May

    Apr 17, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Hooley’s game-winning shot in the America East title game came less than two months after his mother passed from a lengthy bout with colon cancer.

  12. Alabama forward Shannon Hale to return after briefly considering transfer

    Apr 17, 2015, 12:04 AM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Hale is Alabama’s leading returning scorer, as he averaged 8.2 points per game last season.

  13. Five-star 7-footer Stephen Zimmerman commits to UNLV

    Apr 16, 2015, 11:51 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Landing Zimmerman is a big deal for Dave Rice, who could use the boost after a disappointing 2014-15.

  14. 6-foot-10 big man becomes Michigan’s second 2016 commitment

    Apr 16, 2015, 10:56 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Michigan won’t lack for big men when Davis arrives on campus in 2016, but that will give him time to develop as a freshman.

  15. Michigan State forward undergoes arthroscopic procedure on left knee

    Apr 16, 2015, 8:02 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Costello dealt with the knee issue down the stretch, but the procedure isn’t expected to keep him out of offseason workouts for too long.

  16. Mountain West announces new in-season tournament set to begin November 2017 in Cayman Islands

    Apr 16, 2015, 6:32 PM EDT

    MWClogo1

    The Mountain West is guaranteed one of the eight slots in the field.

  17. Which college coaches are getting linked to NBA head coaching jobs?

    Apr 16, 2015, 3:58 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    With the NBA coaching carousel getting started, which college coaches will be linked to the jobs?

  18. Jordan Brand Classic: Duke commit Luke Kennard responds to Tyus Jones’ departure

    Apr 16, 2015, 1:57 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Duke-bound Luke Kennard discusses the Blue Devils’ one-and-dones and filling the point guard role.