In case you live under a rock, UCLA basketball freshman Shabazz Muhammad was re-instated on Friday following what seemed to be a sketchy investigation by the NCAA. After missing three games, Muhammad’s eligibility couldn’t have been announced at a better time with these Bruins traveling to Brooklyn, NY, to play the Georgetown Hoyas, who are 2-0 to start this 2012 season.
Of course, everyone’s giddy and screaming and hugging each other for inappropriate amounts of time — your humble narrator couldn’t resist — but now that Shabazz is back, how will the freshman phenom fit into UCLA’s uptempo offense, which we’ve been able to look at extensively through three games?
Here’s some key bullet points.
- He won’t be handling the ball primarily. It’s clear that UCLA has competent point men, and though we like to be harsh on Larry Drew II, there’s no denying the fact that he works well as the primary playmaker and offensive initiator. He doesn’t turn the ball over a ton and he distributes the ball well. Meanwhile, Kyle Anderson acts as the squad’s secondary ball-handler and has proven to be solid in that arena too, even if UCLA fans are upset that he’s not being “unleashed” to his full potential. Thus, Shabazz Muhammad will likely play off the ball, a lot like Norman Powell does. However, don’t be surprised if Muhammad gets out on the dribble on a fastbreak and keeps the ball to himself and attacks relentlessly.
- He’ll probably play a hell of a lot like Jordan Adams. Jordan Adams plays off the ball a bit, but it doesn’t seem to be his strength. We can imagine that Shabazz is better at playing off the ball but expect Muhammad to have the ball in his hands while being in attack mode, shooting contested jumpers and driving inside relentlessly, much like Adams did. This will likely be more prevalent on a fast-break, too.
- He’ll catch-and-shoot more often than you think. The way UCLA has played so far, Norman Powell has benefited from distribution from UCLA’s point guards. And though we aren’t saying Muhammad will be relegated to Powell’s off-the-ball role, in which Powell plays catch-and-shoot often, he’ll get a lot of those looks from Larry Drew II and Kyle Anderson.
Given these three points, you’d imagine that the role Adams has taken will be the style that Shabazz Muhammad will bring to the table, but likely with more penetration and mid-range jump-shots.
Other than that? It’s hard to gauge how Shabazz will fit into an offense that has so many weapons on the perimeter (the inside game is a different story). He’ll get touches and will likely have the offense revolve around him, but though we feel like he won’t handle the ball primarily, it’s possible that he dribbles around for 34 seconds and nails an insane shot on every play.
We’ll see. The point is, Shabazz Muhammad’s here and we’re all excited.