UCLA coach Ben Howland revealed the worst-kept secret in college basketball last week after the Bruins’ 74-69 win over No. 11 Arizona at home.
“That was [Shabazz Muhammad’s] last game in Pauley, no doubt about it,” Howland said. “I’m very much a realist now. I knew going into this deal that this was a one-year deal, and it should be. He’s a lottery pick. He’s a top-five pick. When you have that going for you, it is absolutely the right thing.”
Muhammad, the freshman who is averaging 18.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, is expected to be a Top 5 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and there has been little doubt about his eventual intentions to declare. But the timing of Howland’s announcement were what perplexed most. Traditionally these have been matters handled in the offseason, with no mention during the year. There is typically so little mention in fact that many players and coaches act as if the NBA does not exist at all.
For that reason, Howland took a chance to “apologize” Tuesday, as reported by Peter Yoon of ESPNLosAngeles.com:
“I’m sorry that I even — I’m sometimes too honest because it would have been better to have answered that question differently the other day because I’ve never discussed it with Shabazz,” Howland said. “It’s just kind of obvious when a kid is a lottery pick that they’re going to be going to the NBA in this day and age.”
He did nothing wrong. No one is saying he did. But now we’ll go back to the established order, back to the way things were. We’ll go back to the world where the NBA couldn’t even be acknowledged until after the final buzzer of the national championship game on April 8. Then the off-season madness begins.