After NCAA Hearing, Howland ‘Hopeful’ of Getting Shabazz Back

UCLA coach Ben Howland doesn’t know when he will learn the result of UCLA’s Friday hearing with the NCAA appeals committee regarding Shabazz Muhammad but he’s “hopeful” the star freshman will debut soon.

The hearing ended by 1 p.m. EST Friday, the L.A. Times reported.

“We’ll be very excited when we get him back,” Howland said Friday on a conference call in advance of the Legends Classic next week in Brooklyn involving the Bruins, No. 1 Indiana, Georgetown and Georgia.

“We’re really looking forward to getting him back and excited. Hopefully that will occur here, so we’re just very hopeful.”

The NCAA is investigating the 6-foot-6 freshman wing for accepting improper benefits, including accepting lodging and transportation during recruiting visits to Duke and North Carolina.

The L.A. Times reported that an overheard conversation on an airplane may have prejudiced the NCAA in the case.

His lawyers, as result, want the case dismissed and Muhammad reinstated immediately.

“This confirms our greatest fears, that this case was decided long before the facts were gathered,” attorney Bill Trosch told the paper. “This taints the whole process, and I think Shabazz should be able to play immediately.”

Muhammad’s family, meantime, has been critical of the NCAA, issuing a harsh statement about the organization to the L.A. Times.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” Howland said. “We’re very hopeful and remaining very positive about Shabazz, so we’ve been cooperative with the NCAA, as has the family as well. The family has been fantastic. Shabazz and his parents have been unbelievably cooperative given everything that’s been asked of them. So we’re just very hopeful and hopefully the situation will be resolved sometime in the near future.”

Muhammad is projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com, and NBA scouts say his situation won’t affect his draft status.

“He’s a great talent, he’s a great kid, he works extremely hard, he’s got a great motor,” Howland said, “so I think he’s going to be a heck of a player.”

Photo: L.A. Times

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