Are the Bruins back?
, the nation's top high school guard and scorer, made a nationally-televised pledge to Ben Howland and UCLA on Wednesday, instantly lifting the spirits of a program rocked by a tumultuous three-year run.
Ranked No. 2 overall in MaxPreps.com's Class of 2012 Top 100, the 6-foot-6, 215-pound shooting guard picked the Bruins over co-finalists Duke and Kentucky. He made his announcement live during ESPNU's signing day special.
Muhammad led Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
to its third state title in four seasons as a senior, piling up 30.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. He erupted for 30 points in the first half against Hug (Reno) in Nevada's Class 4A state championship game, finishing with 36 as the Gaels won by over 40 points.
In front of a national television audience, Muhammad turned in one of the signature performances of the 2011-12 season in a win over storied DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) at the Spalding Hoophall Classic in January. He poured in 37 points and cranked home a vicious windmill in the closing minutes to close the door on the Stags.
Bishop Gorman was No. 7 in MaxPreps.com's final national rankings and went 111-17 in the future Bruin's four years with the program. He leaves Las Vegas as the most decorated high school basketball player in the city's history.
As a junior, Muhammad averaged 25.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, earning fifth team MaxPreps All-American honors. He also suffered perhaps the biggest disappointment of his high school career as Gorman was stunned in the state semifinals by underdog Bishop Manogue (Reno).
Muhammad seems to have a strong grasp on his potential in the sport – and not just as a player, but as a brand. He's cultivated an army of over 32,000 followers on Twitter (@phenom15balla) and handles the media with the polish and professionalism of a 10-year NBA veteran.
From the McDonald's All-American Game to lightly-attended summer contests with his Dream Vision club, Muhammad's determination to score and simply outwork opponents has been apparent over the past 12 months. He's embraced the idea of being viewed as the nation's top player.
Muhammad joins a UCLA recruiting class that also includes No. 3 overall prospect Kyle Anderson
of high school national champion St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.)
and Jordan Adams
of academy national champ Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)
The trio will be expected to help put a rough stretch in the rear view for Howland and the Bruins. UCLA has missed the NCAA Tournament in two of the last three seasons, going 56-43 in that span.