The UCLA Bruins have battled many different forms of adversity this year. The season isn’t even done yet, but that has not prevented Bill Walton from using the picture-box as a place to voice his displeasure about Ben Howland, the fanbase in general wants a Final Four run or else, and Shabazz Muhammad got in Internet-trouble for his love of expensive man-purses.
So it should come to a shock to no one that Howland wants to kill a rumor before the NCAA Tournament starts. Yesterday, after the Bruins victory, Howland told a group of reporters that he fully expects Muhammad to make the jump to the NBA. Howland wasn’t shy about discussing the issue, here is what he had to say:
“That was his last game in Pauley, no doubt about it.”
“I’m very much a realist now. I knew going into this deal that this was a one-year deal, and it should be. He’s a lottery pick. He’s a top-five pick. When you have that going for you, it is absolutely the right thing.”
While it was rather refreshing to hear Howland talk so candidly about one of his players going pro after just one year, it left Muhammad in the awkward position where he had to talk about the matter as well. Here is the super-freshman’s thoughts:
“It’s still a long season of basketball. We don’t know yet. I kind of thought about it. I just thought about the big win we’re going to have and how important this win was for us against Arizona.”
It is pretty obvious that Muhammad’s primary goal is to get into the NBA as soon as possible. I wouldn’t blame him for going after just one year – I’m just surprised everyone is openly talking about it. You would think, if you like to do that kind of thing, that Howland would do everything in his power to keep him, not tell everyone why he will leave.
Although, Howland knows what is at stake. The short-term for the coach is far more important. Many feel the coach has to take UCLA on a deep tourney run, or Walton will get his wish of Howland’s head on a stick.
Joe is a Senior Writer for Rant Sports. Follow Joe on Twitter @JosephNardone