|Shabazz Muhammad and two other UCLA freshmen are being investigated by the NCAA (espn.com)|
Ben Howland is trying to bring UCLA basketball back to prominence.
The past few years were a whirlwind of scandal and lack of leadership — which came out in a Sports Illustrated piece — disgruntled players (Reeves Nelson) and more losing than the Bruin faithful like or are used to.
This year felt like it could be different. With Howland on the hot seat, he brought in high school phenom Shabazz Muhammad, the No. 1-rated player in his class according to Rivals.com, as well as highly recruited players Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker. UCLA received immediate buzz after the signings, and the new additions were pegged to bring the Bruins back to the top of the PAC 12.
Those dreams might be placed on hold. CBSSports.com is reporting that all three recruits are being investigated by the NCAA. Muhammad's eligibility has been questioned throughout his recruitment with inquiries about his connection to financial advisors, and he was not allowed to travel with the team to China last month for exhibition games.
Now Anderson is on the NCAA's radar for his supposed relationship with agent Thad Foucher and Parker is being investigated to see if his family received improper benefits.
The UCLA trio aren't the only freshmen who have the NCAA looking at them closely. Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel's academic eligibility was initially questioned, but even after he was cleared to play, the investigation now turns to improper benefits.
Every team wants to recruit the best players. That's how it should be. But the hype players are given at such a young age makes them more vulnerable to the persuasion of agents. These recruits can turn your team around quickly, but it also seems like these top players are being investigated more often and eventually they will not all get cleared to play. Teams will still argue the players are worth it — just don't expect it to be a smooth ride.
UCLA was hoping their talented trio of freshmen would take it back to the NCAA Tournament, but they won't win any games if they are found ineligible and are forced to stay in street clothes. It would be yet another rough patch in Howland's up-and-down tenure in Southern California.
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