UCLA Bruins head coach Ben Howland confirmed on Saturday night that freshman star swingman Shabazz Muhammad played his last game at Pauley Pavilion in a 74-69 win against No. 11 Arizona. Immediately after the big win, Howland didn’t have any doubt he had coached his freshman for the last time at home.
“That was his last game in Pauley, no doubt about it,” the coach said.
The news comes as no real surprise, as the Las Vegas product will likely be a lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft this summer. He is averaging 18.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 30.5 minutes through 26 games this season and has two games remaining at Washington and Washington State. The Bruins are 22-7 this season under Howland and first in the Pac-12 with a 12-4 conference record.
Muhammad has been an integral part of UCLA’s bounce-back season after finishing 2011-12 19-14 and 11-7 in the Pac-12. On Saturday, he made the final free-throw of the game that capped the win as he finished with 18 points.
Though his coach was sold on the matter, Muhammad was non-commital with his eventual decision.
“It’s still a long season of basketball,” Muhammad said. “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.”
Fans chanted, “One more year!” as the game came to an end and the implications became clearer of what it meant. At the end of the day, Muhammad was sentimental about it all and sounded like a player who had more than made up his mind.
“The fans here are great,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed myself this whole year. I’ve been going through a lot this year with injuries and just getting experience at the college level. I’m really happy I came here and represented UCLA because it’s a great school and I just gained a lot of experience coming here. It’s great.”