Report: Top ’12 prospect Shabazz Muhammad may be ineligible

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Shabazz Muhammad is the most sought-after recruit in the country, but any college team currently pursuing has been warned by the NCAA: some of his financial dealings may have rendered him ineligible.

The 6-6 wing has a lengthy list of schools he’s considering, which includes Kentucky, UCLA, Duke, Kansas and UNLV, his hometown school. He’d provide an instant impact at any of them, provided the NCAA doesn’t keep him off the court.

Per Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com:

The sources told CBSSports.com that the NCAA is specifically interested in connections between Muhammad’s family and two financial advisers — Benjamin Lincoln and Ken Kavanagh. Lincoln is a North Carolina-based financial analyst whose brother, Jeff Lincoln, is an assistant coach for Muhammad’s high school team in Las Vegas. Kavanagh is a New York-based financial planner.

Muhammad’s father, Ron Holmes, acknowledged to CBSSports.com in multiple phone calls this week that he knows both men and has been questioned by an NCAA investigator about the relationships. Sources told CBSSports.com Lincoln paid for at least two of Muhammad’s unofficial visits to college campuses and that Kavanagh has helped fund Muhammad’s summer team, the Las Vegas-based Dream Vision Foundation.

No one involved — not the advisors, not Muhammad’s family — denied the accusations. And frankly, none of this is surprising. If you spend ten minutes talking with people in recruiting circles, you’ll hear five rumors about Muhammad’s recruitment.

There are a couple of issues at play. First of all, the NCAA is going to question just how close the family of the player is to a pair of financial advisors that live on the other side of the country and also whether or not that “friendship” is based solely around the potential for future business dealings.

The other issue involves the unofficial visits. Muhammad, who lives in Las Vegas, has been racking up the frequent flyer miles making unofficial visits. According to Jeff Borzello, Muhammad has taken as many as 15 unofficial visits — players are all to take five official visits where the school pays for the trip — and at least three to Duke and North Carolina. Think about how much hotels and airfare costs these days. That’s a lot of money to spend on unofficial visits.

But, as Dave Telep explained back in October, unofficial visits are the new violation du jour:

The unofficial visit is the most powerful recruiting weapon in the arsenal of a major college. It is also the most abused recruiting practice in the game today, and it is extremely difficult to uncover wrongdoing because of a lack of evidence. One member of the NCAA focus group tasked with cleaning up college basketball acknowledged that unofficial visits are a major problem area for the NCAA, and it is aware of the corruption but can do little to address the problem, largely because of the untraceability of cash.

[…]

One of the go-to moves by a college to get a player on campus is to have his coach, mentor, street agent or parent book a flight and hotel on his credit card. At this point, the player and his representatives already know they will get the money back. It’s common for a school to reach out to someone close to the player and arrange repayment. If a college coach hands an AAU coach cash to pay for his player’s trip, how can the NCAA trace that?

Some food for thought: many cited the potential of Muhammad joining Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams in the 2012 recruiting class for UCLA as a reason that Ben Howland may be able to survive the article that was written about his mismanagement of the program.

Well, what happens if Muhammad is ineligible to play in college?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.