Shabazz Muhammad

UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad dropping weight, hopes to be in peak form by Pac-12 play

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Amidst the mess that became of Shabazz Muhammad’s NCAA eligibility ordeal earlier this season, one fact was lost. In addition to fighting his way toward being cleared, the 6-6 freshman was battling back from a shoulder injury that had sidelined him since late October.

Unable to work out, Muhammad did not look to be in game shape when he made his debut for UCLA in Brooklyn on Oct. 19, having added some pounds and without the explosiveness that he was lauded for in high school.

That’s all beginning to change, according to the Los Angeles Times.

According to the paper, Muhammad’s weight had ballooned to 230 pounds this season, up from his high school weight of 215.

“I was really out of shape,” Muhammad told the Times. He has since lost 10 pounds and plans to lose five more.

“I’m really getting up and showing my explosive ability that I had all along,” he said.

After missing the first three games of the season while the NCAA reviewed his eligibility status, Muhammad has worked to become UCLA’s second-leading scorer, behind fellow freshman Jordan Adams.

He has scored in double digits in all six games he has seen minutes, including a career-high 21 points against Georgia in the Bruins’ second game in Brooklyn in October.

Coach Ben Howland says he expects Muhammad to reach “peak game shape” by January, according to the paper, which would be just in time for the start of Pac-12 play.

The Bruins take on Prarie View A&M on Saturday.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Akron reveals special bobble heads for LeBron, high school teammates

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When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.

LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.

Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).

All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.