Even if the NCAA were to unexpectedly clear Shabazz Muhammad in time for UCLA's season opener, the highly touted freshman still may not be able to play Nov. 9 against Indiana State.
Muhammad is expected to miss 2 to 4 weeks of practice as a result of a right shoulder injury sustained during practice Wednesday, UCLA announced Thursday evening. An MRI taken Wednesday night did not reveal any structural damage that would require the 6-foot-6 freshman to undergo surgery.
Hailed as the centerpiece of a recruiting class expected to revive a UCLA program that has missed the NCAA tournament two of the past three seasons, Muhammad has yet to spend much time on the floor with his teammates.
A high ankle sprain kept him from participating in workouts earlier this summer. Then the NCAA's inquiry into his recruitment prevented him from joining the Bruins on their exhibition tour of China in August. And now, this injury to his non-shooting shoulder will likely push back his debut until mid-November at the earliest.
Of course, it may be much longer than that before the NCAA allows Muhammad to don a UCLA uniform at Pauley Pavilion if investigators determine the star freshman accepted extra benefits during his recruitment.
Already known to be at issue in Muhammad's case are financial dealings between the shooting guard's family and financial advisers that could compromise his amateur status. CBSSports.com reported earlier this year that family friends and financial advisers Benjamin Lincoln and Ken Kavanagh paid for two of Muhammad's unofficial visits and helped fund his AAU team.
The NCAA has given no indication when it will rule on Muhammad's status. Fellow top freshman Kyle Anderson also has yet to be cleared to play this season, though by all accounts Anderson appears to be more likely to avoid a suspension to start the season.