Shabazz Muhammad is leaving UCLA after his breakout freshman season to enter the NBA Draft. Muhammad was the nation’s most highly recruited basketball star out of high school and has now set his sights on the NBA.
To 20-year-old spent time as both a shooting guard and a small forward for the Bruins in 2013 while leading the team with an average of 17.9 points a game. UCLA advanced to the NCAA Tournament after missing out in 2011-12 but lost to Minnesota in the round of 64.
Muhammad finished the year as the Pac-12 co-freshman of the year with Jahii Carson of Arizona State and was named to the conference’s first team. Kevin Love was the last UCLA player to win freshman of the year and his career has turned out quite well.
Love has been the Minnesota Timberwolves leader and best all-around player since joining the squad in 2008-09 and also won Olympic gold in 2012 as a member of the United States national team.
Muhammad hopes to follow in Love’s footsteps as he prepares for the NBA Draft, which will take place on June 27. According to Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports, Muhammad is projected to be drafted in the top 10.
Nerlens Noel of Kentucky announced that he would be entering the NBA Draft a few days before Muhammad and is expected to be the first overall pick next to Ben McLemore of Kansas. As of right now, six college freshman during the 2012-13 season are expected to be drafted within the first 10 picks.
Muhammad shouldn’t fall at all in the projections leading up the draft barring any injury or setback during training. The 6-foot-6 talent led the Bruins to the Pac-12 regular season title this year and his stock has been rising ever since.
The decision to enter the NBA Draft was expected from Muhammad as he’s a guaranteed lottery pick and should get a pretty nice signing bonus to start his professional career. The news isn’t all that bad for UCLA as Thomas Todd of SB Nation reports that small forward Kyle Anderson will remain with the team instead joining Muhammad in the draft.
Anderson is ranked as the 10th best small forward in the CBS Sports draft projections and was expected to be drafted late in the second round or early into the third. His decision to stay with UCLA was more than likely the best one as his stock should rise after next season.
Muhammad is NBA-ready now and he could surely be valuable to a number of teams with picks in the top 10 of the upcoming draft. Will Shabazz Muhammad regret leaving UCLA early for the NBA Draft, or did he make the right decision to turn pro after his standout freshman season?
[Image via Bryan Horowitz]