Over the last year, Ben Howland has endured his share of criticism for his players' performance on and off the court.
It's been well known that the 2012-13 season would be extremely important for Howland and the UCLA program. Given some missing pieces on the current roster, the Bruins would have to hit a home run in their 2012 recruiting class.
With the commitment of 6-foot-5, 205-pound Las Vegas Bishop Gorman 2012 small forward Shabazz Muhammad, the Bruins are set to be a powerful squad next season, one that will compete for a Pac-12 title and could make a serious run in the NCAA tournament.
"Scoring Muhammad changes the outlook of UCLA's season," says Scout.com national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels. "By adding him, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, the Bruins can start thinking about doing some serious damage next season."
One of the most dominant offensive players that has come through high school basketball over the last decade, Muhammad's scoring prowess will make the Bruins a tough team to beat next season.
"The Bruins are back," says Scout.com recruiting analyst Brian Snow. "They are flat out back and Muhammad is a huge reason why. Muhammad will give them the scoring punch and tough defender they have needed for the past two years, and that go-to superstar who thrives in big moments.
"He is a kid who will enjoy being coached hard and will take to Howland’s system. There is no reason why Muhammad won’t contend for Pac-12 Player of the Year and All-American honors in his lone year in Westwood."
Muhammad left high school a state champion and will enter college with the talent to leave college basketball a champion as well.
His relentless work ethic on and off the court isn't only significant because of what he's capable of during games, but how he forces everyone around him to work harder to be better players as well.
"What separates Shabazz Muhammad from nearly every other player in this class and so many great players before him is his desire and drive to be the best," says Snow. "It is easy to strive to be good, it is a little harder to be great, but it is exponentially more difficult to be the best and strive to be the best and to work to be the best on a daily basis.
"That is what Muhammad brings. He desires to be the best and brings that to the court every single day. Muhammad is a great player 17-feet and in, has developed a fairly consistent jump shot, and is a better rebounder and defender than he gets credit for. There is very little for one to pick apart with Muhammad and his skill set."
Muhammad's high school coach at Bishop Gorman, Grant Rice, raves about the future Bruin's work ethic.
"He just outworks people," Rice said. "That’s just something he has inside of him. He has the complete package. He wants to be great. I think [UCLA] is getting someone that competes at a level like no high school/college kid. It's rare."
With Howland adding Muhammad, Anderson and Adams to a team that already includes David Wear, Travis Wear, Josh Smith, Anthony Stover, Norman Powell, Tyler Lamb and Larry Drew, the Bruins will have some significant firepower next season.
The possibility remains that UCLA could add five-star Lithonia (Ga.) Miller Grove center Tony Parker to the Bruins' 2012 recruiting class, which would cement Howland's haul as the top in the country and give another big time weapon for a national title run.
But regardless, Howland securing Muhammad all but assures UCLA of being a very good team in 2012-13. It also helps give credibility to UCLA to other recruits, that Westwood is still a popular destination for highly rated prospects, something that could give Howland momentum in future recruiting classes.
Shabazz Muhammad to UCLA makes Wednesday, April 11, a very significant day for Ben Howland and his basketball program.