Just hours before UCLA was to tip off the start of their season versus Indiana State, their prize recruit Shabazz Muhammad was ruled ineligible. His ineligibility stems from that according to the NCAA he “accepted travel and lodging during three unofficial visits to two NCAA member schools,” which is a violation of amateurism rules. The visits in question were to Duke and North Carolina and were paid for by a family friend. The friend, a financial adviser, is the brother of an assistant coach of Muhammad’s high school team in Las Vegas. The NCAA allows for such benefits, provided they come from someone with a preexisting family relationship. The NCAA deemed the relationship with Muhammad’s family and the financial adviser fell outside those parameters. UCLA is planning on appealing the ruling.
Despite the short notice, Bruin fans came in full support of one of the players brought in this year to resurrect their fallen program. Coach Ben Howland had put together one of the top 5 recruiting classes in the nation and Muhammad was the number 2 ranked player in the nation coming out of high school. Countless fans showed up wearing “Free Shabazz” t-shirts, that also had his picture on the front, and chanting his name during the game. Prior to the game, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers sang the National Anthem while also wearing his own version of a “Free Shabazz” t-shirt.
UCLA beat Indiana State, 86-59, as Muhammad watched in street close from the bench. David Wear led the way for the Bruins with a double-double, 13 points and 10 rebounds.