UCLA's first dress rehearsal for the upcoming season won't include one of its leading men.
Shabazz Muhammad, the centerpiece of UCLA's decorated recruiting class, will not travel with the team for its exhibition tour of China next week as a result of an ongoing NCAA investigation, Scout.com's Tracy Pierson reported Tuesday.
At issue are financial dealings between Muhammad's family and financial advisers that could compromise the shooting guard's 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.
Muhammad's absence will certainly reduce the impact of UCLA's exhibition tour since the full complement of players will not have a chance to jell with one another. Nonetheless, the greater concern for UCLA is Muhammad could face suspension as a result of the NCAA investigation.
The early consensus at UCLA is Muhammad could easily have to sit out to start the season, but it is unlikely to be more than a few games. In that scenario, Muhammad would likely miss the opening of newly renovated Pauley Pavilion Nov. 9 against Indiana State, but he could be back in time for the semifinals of the Legends Classic against Georgetown.
A prolonged suspension for Muhammad would be damaging to UCLA's hopes of returning to contention in the Pac-12 after a series of down seasons. The Bruins made three straight Final Fours from 2006 to 2008, but they've missed the NCAA tournament two of the past four seasons and haven't advanced past the opening weekend in the other two.
Optimism for UCLA is a result of the talented batch of newcomers Ben Howland landed. Muhammad, versatile forward Kyle Anderson, sharp-shooting Jordan Adams and talented big man Tony Parker join a team that returns a trimmed-down Joshua Smith and the Wear twins, David and Travis.