There has been a lot of uncertainty of whether or not the UCLA Bruins freshman guard, Shabazz Muhammad, will be playing in the season opener against Indiana State on Friday.
The talented guard has been surrounded by a tremendous amount of hype because of his potential to lead the Bruins.
But there are two factors that may delay his ability to make an impact.
The first factor is his injury. Muhammad is in the midst of recovering from a right shoulder strain and his physical ability to compete is still questionable. Head Coach Ben Howland has hinted that Muhammad is close to being fully recovered but nothing has been confirmed.
The second factor is his eligibility. Muhammad is still under investigation by the NCAA for possible infractions regarding family and AAU relations to financial agents. Although he has not been cleared yet, the NCAA grants 45 days for a player to continue to practice and compete while the investigation is going on.
If Muhammad is still not cleared after the 45-day period, he will not be able to participate in practice or games until the verdict of the investigation comes to head.
So the question is, should Muhammad play in the Bruins first game?
The answer is no, he should not play. Of course this may not be what Muhammad wants to hear, what Howland wants to do or what his teammates think should happen. But the smartest decision would be for Muhammad to sit this one out.
Injuries are something that you do not want to mess with as an athlete, especially for a player that could end up being critical to the success of a team further into the season. If his shoulder is not fully recovered, it is not worth the risk of re-injuring it. If this were to happen, Muhammad would be sitting out for a much longer period of time.
Secondly, the eligibility of Muhammad is still unknown. This means that potentially, the Bruins could be without Muhammad for an extended period of time while the investigation is underway and depending on the conclusion found by the NCAA. If UCLA begins their season with Muhammad, it will be very hard to adjust to the loss of such an instrumental player in games. Instead, they should focus on utilizing the players they have now and perfect their system without Muhammad.
The time period for both his injury and his eligibility are still unknown. Regardless, UCLA cannot revolve their team around factors that are out of their control.