6-foot-6 high school basketball star Shabazz Muhammad of Nevada was recently named the 2011-2012 ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA. â€œItâ€™s really a great honor,â€ Muhammad said. â€œNobody in Nevada was really known nationally like that. You always heard about the best players in the West being from California. I think itâ€™s really special to represent my hometown [Las Vegas] with this award.â€
Muhammad is the first Mr. Basketball USA from a Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association school and the first from the West Region since future NBA Hall of Famer Jason Kidd of St. Joseph (Alameda, Calif.) in 1991-92. This news came on the heels of the announcement that Shabazz had committed to play college basketball at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). This announcement was a shock to many, considering the extent to which the UCLA menâ€™s basketball has struggled in recent years.
â€œI think the biggest thing was the challenge of bringing a storied program back to prominence,â€ said Muhammadâ€™s father Ron Holmes. â€œAt the end of the day, Kentucky didnâ€™t have that. At the end of the day, Duke didnâ€™t have that. Those programs are so great, but Shabazz and [incoming freshmen] Kyle [Anderson] and Jordan [Adams] and the Wear twins and Josh [Smith], if they can bring this program back to prominence they will go down in UCLA lore and college basketball lore.â€
Bruins fans apparently believe in Muhammadâ€™s ability to revive the program. A UCLA spokesman said the school experienced an increase in menâ€™s basketball season-ticket purchases and memberships in the Wooden Athletic Fund since Muhammad signed his letter of intent. And web traffic to UCLAâ€™s main athletic site, UCLABruins.com, increased 30% between Monday and Wednesday, according to the spokesman, who also said web traffic to the university site where menâ€™s basketball tickets are sold nearly quadrupled. UCLA was once led by a great Muslim basketball player, Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Now UCLA has pinned its hopes on another Muslim baller, but only time will tell if Shabazz Muhammad can deliver.