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Shabazz Muhammad trying to find his way now that he’s finally allowed on the court

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Shabazz Muhammad (US Presswire)

Shabazz Muhammad looked out of shape, out of sync with his teammates and supremely talented all at once Monday making his long-awaited debut for No. 11 UCLA in a loss to Georgetown in a semifinal of the Legends Classic.

Muhammad scored 15 points in front of a large contingent of NBA scouts, making five of his 10 shots after missing the Bruins' first three games and their preseason trip to China while dealing with accusations by the NCAA that he received improper benefits.

That case was recently cleared, allowing Muhammad to begin what everyone believes will be his only season at the college level. He is expected to be a high lottery pick in next summer's NBA draft if not the No. 1 overall selection.

"I can get a lot better," he said. "I didn't think I played really well tonight."

[Also: Thirty years after stunning No. 1 Virginia, Chaminade upsets Texas]

Muhammad was conflicted afterward by what he sees as a team with a huge upside and having missed an opportunity to test himself against top-ranked Indiana had the Bruins beaten Georgetown.

"It doesn't feel good inside," Muhammad said. "I really wanted to get a shot at them but knowing we really aren't ready yet. We're going to practice and get this together. We're going to be a really good team."

There is truth there. UCLA lost by just eight points on a night when Muhammad and his teammates were just getting to know each other in a competitive situation beyond practice.

Perhaps the biggest question remaining for Muhammad now that he's playing basketball again is how he will handle the pressure that comes with being so highly regarded already by the next level of his sport while he's just trying to settle in at this level.

Kyle Ringo covers Colorado and the Pac-12 for the Daily Camera in Boulder. Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleRingo

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