Top H.S Hoop Recruits Shabazz Muhammad Heading To UCLA and Nerlens Noel Picks Kentucky

Sports Illustrated’s Rob Dauster on the college commitments of top prospects Muhammad and Noel:

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“Wednesday was so much more than just the first day of college basketball’s spring signing period. With the nation’s top two recruits — Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel — announcing where they intend to spend their likely one-and-done seasons, every 2012-13 projection hung in the balance. Muhammad surprised no one by committing to and signing with UCLA, while Noel kept Georgetown and Kentucky fans waiting before revealing a ‘UK’ symbol shaved into the back of his trademark flat-top.

Here are five quick thoughts on their commitments:

1. Is this recruiting class fool’s gold for Ben Howland? UCLA coach Ben Howland needed this recruiting class desperately. After spending the last four seasons proving nothing more than his inability to build on the success of three straight Final Four trips from 2006-08, Howland watched as his second NIT-bound campaign in the last three years was punctuated by a story from Sports Illustrated that highlighted everything negative happening in the program. The notion that drew the most criticism was the accusation that Howland allowed Reeves Nelson to deliberately injure fellow team members without repercussion.  As poorly as that reflects on the program, it looks even worse for Howland.

The fact that the ninth-year coach even managed to keep his job centered not only on his three consecutive Final Fours, but, perhaps more pressingly, on the idea that Howland could lure two of the top three national recruits in Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. If this class ends up being as good as advertised, it will breathe some life into the UCLA program and create some leeway from Howland’s bosses — particularly if he is able to fill up the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion.

The irony in all of this, however, is that Howland’s troubles began when he started going after blue-chip prospects. From 2006-08, Howland sent seven players to the NBA. Five of them — Jordan Farmar, Darren Collison, Aaron Afflalo, Russell Westbrook and Ryan Hollins — were from Southern California. With the exception of Kevin Love, every other contributing member of his three Final Four teams was a native of either Cameroon (Luc Richard Mbah Moute and Alfred Aboya) or California. Howland’s bread and butter was owning his backyard; his troubles began when he started branching out as the media in Los Angeles criticized him for not having enough talent to win a title.

Anderson is from New Jersey. Muhammad is from Las Vegas. Jordan Adams, who has already signed with UCLA, and Tony Parker, a big man that UCLA is targeting, are both from Georgia. Howland may have earned himself a stay of execution with this recruiting class, but is he just delaying the inevitable?

2. Adidas speculation aside, it’s surprising that Kentucky didn’t land both Muhammad and Noel. Shabazz Muhammad’s AAU team is sponsored by Adidas. His sister, Asia, is a tennis player ranked just shy of 400th in the world. She’s also sponsored by Adidas. UCLA is an Adidas school. Factor all that into consideration, and it’s no wonder that every so-called recruiting expert figured that Muhammad was bound for UCLA a long time ago. That’s just the way it works these days.

But to give you an idea of just how powerful John Calipari’s program is, there is still a part of me that’s surprised the Wildcats didn’t land both Muhammad and Noel. At this point, Coach Cal barely even needs to make a pitch when he walks into the home of a recruit. The results speak for themselves: He rebuilds — or reloads? — every year, coaching his immensely talented players until they are highly sought after by the NBA. If you include Enes Kanter, Kentucky has had seven first-round draftees under Coach Cal and nine selections overall. The formula is simple: go to Kentucky, compete for a national title and declare for the NBA. This season, Kentucky may end up seeing its top six players get drafted after winning the NCAA championship. That’s the dream, isn’t it?

While Coach Cal did manage to bring in the more important piece — Noel is a defensive game-changer of Anthony Davis’ ilk; Muhammad plays the same position as some of UK’s current recruits — there is still an element of shock when a program of Kentucky’s caliber doesn’t woo the player it is trying to woo.”

For Full Article: Commitments of Muhammad, Noel could make major 2012-13 impact

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Posted on April 12, 2012, in NCAA Basketball, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Top H.S Hoop Recruits Shabazz Muhammad Heading To UCLA and Nerlens Noel Picks Kentucky.

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