Reports leaked out around lunch time here on the east coast that Kyle Anderson, the consensus top three recruit and 6-foot-9 playmaker from New Jersey, was ruled eligible by the NCAA. He had been investigated for his relationship with an agent named Thad Foucher, and apparently the NCAA couldn’t find anything there that would jeopardize Anderson’s amateurism or his eligibility.
The statement from UCLA AD Dan Guerrero read, simply: “UCLA was informed by the NCAA earlier today that freshman guard Kyle Anderson is eligible to play this season, and that the NCAA has found no evidence to substantiate claims of violations in his case. I am grateful to all those who were involved in the process. We are looking forward to opening our season on November 9 against Indiana State at New Pauley Pavilion.”
And while that is big news, it’s not exactly a surprise; no one really expected Anderson to be held hostage by the NCAA this season.
When I look at that statement, however, what I see is this: “(Blah blah blah) we got Kyle Anderson, but we still haven’t heard anything about Shabazz Muhammad. (Blah blah) I repeat, Shabazz has not yet been cleared. (Blah) No Shabazz. We look forward to November 9th.”
I’m not trying to take anything away from Anderson as a player, the point is that Anderson’s eligibility was more of a ‘when’ than an ‘if’. Muhammad is very much an ‘if’. Is he going to be suspended for any games? If so, how many? When will we get the final number? If he is forced to sit out for 20 games, will it be worth it for him to even enroll in college for the year? How long before his family gets fed up and says ‘screw it, we’re going to Europe’?
Because Muhammad is the difference maker. Muhammad is the guy that takes UCLA from a top four team in the Pac-12 to, potentially, a top ten team nationally. Anderson is the reason that UCLA will be competitive for the Pac-12 title, but Muhammad is the guy that makes this group a national title threat. He’s that good.
And until there is a ruling on Muhammad’s eligibility, any speculation about what UCLA will be this season is more or less useless.
Make a decision already, NCAA. This kid — and this team — doesn’t deserve to be held hostage.