UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad is eligible to play for the Bruins men’s basketball team immediately, the NCAA announced Friday when it reinstated him after hearing an appeal from the university.
Muhammad, a 6-foot-6 swingman listed by many as the nation’s top high school recruit last year, will travel with UCLA to New York on Saturday for its games in the Legends Classic tournament, and he’s expected to make his college debut Monday when the No. 13 Bruins (3-0) play Georgetown (2-0).
“I am excited to be able to play for UCLA starting next Monday,” Muhammad said in a statement.
“My family and friends were very supportive of me throughout this process and I couldn’t have gone through this without them.”
The 5 p.m. PST game will be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and will be televised on ESPN2.
“Look out New York City,” said Bill Trosch, the attorney for the Muhammad family.
The Las Vegas native has yet to play for the Bruins this season after the NCAA declared him ineligible on Nov. 9 for violating its amateurism rules following an investigation that spanned more than a year.
“I am relieved that this long, arduous process has come to an end,” UCLA Coach Ben Howland said in a statment. “So many people worked very hard on this case and I am eternally grateful to them as well as the Bruin family, who stood by us throughout. I am pleased that Shabazz will be able to begin his collegiate career.”
Said Trosch: “There were many times during the investigation that my faith in the NCAA wavered. I understand the NCAA’s ruling, and am grateful that they have done the right thing, allowing Shabazz back on the court.”
In its Nov. 9 ruling, the NCAA said that in addition to other “pending issues,” Muhammad accepted airfare and lodging for three unofficial recruiting visits. The visits, to Duke and North Carolina, were paid for by financial advisor Benjamin Lincoln.
The Muhammad family has said Lincoln is a longtime family friend whose assistance should be allowed under NCAA rules.
The school and NCAA enforcement agreed on the facts of the case, and therefore it was determined by the NCAA that Muhammad couldn’t play in UCLA’s season opener against Indiana State, said a person with knowledge of the situation who is not allowed to speak publicly about it.
But UCLA disagreed that a violation occurred and formally appealed the NCAA’s decision earlier this week.
The NCAA appeals committee had a hearing Friday with UCLA and, after several hours, a decision was rendered.
In a statement, the NCAA said that UCLA acknowledged amateurism violations occurred and asked the NCAA on Friday to reinstate Muhammad with conditions.
The school required Muhammad to sit 10% of the season (three games) and to repay about $1,600 in impermissible benefits, the approximate cost of the three unofficial trips paid for by Lincoln.
But because Muhammad has already sat out three games, he has served his suspension and is eligible to compete immediately.
“I’m delighted that Shabazz can join the team on Monday and hopefully will have a successful season with UCLA,” said Robert Orr, Muhammad’s attorney. “I’m appreciative of the tenacious effort by the UCLA administration to try and help Shabazz in this. They’re to be commended for all they’ve done.”
UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said the Bruins family is “extremely grateful” the matter is over.
“This entire process has been challenging on many fronts, but we believe strongly in the principles of fairness, integrity and due process,” he said in a statement.
“We are satisfied with the outcome and pleased that Shabazz will be able to join his teammates on the floor, representing UCLA in Brooklyn on Monday night.”