Ben Howland on Prized Freshman Shabazz Muhammad: “He’s had a tough go since he’s arrived”

November 5, 2012 – 8:45 am by Chris Fedor

Since making it to his last Final Four appearance in the 2007-2008 season, Ben Howland and his UCLA Bruins are averaging just 20 wins in their last four seasons and have made just two trips to the NCAA Tournament. At a place like UCLA that is not good enough for Howland and he knows it. Yet despite a 19 win season last year, there is excitement once again in Westwood. Not only has Pauley Pavilion been renovated but the Bruins have two prized freshmen recruits in Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad who are expected to bring UCLA back to the top of the Pac-12.

Ben Howland joined KJR in Seattle with Dave “Softy” Mahler to talk about the renovations to Pauley Pavilion, what it’s like to coach at a program like UCLA, on being able to guide the team and the fans following the article titled “Not the UCLA Way” in Sports Illustrated and what the status is of Shabazz Muhammad.

On the renovations to Pauley Pavilion:
“No question. We moved in this past Monday. We actually had the celebration moving back in. (Host: How does it look?) It’s awesome. Basically it’s a brand new facility. They really stripped it down to the bare bones, they added 40,000 new square footage, new locker rooms, weight room, film room, beautiful concourse now that really captures the history and tradition of Pauley Pavilion and just a tremendous boost for our program and great for our fans and players.”
On coaching at a program like UCLA:
“It’s special. I knew about the expectations before I took the job and that is part of the fun. You’re held at the very highest standards at UCLA and it’s a wonderful place. The University just in general is so special. The quality of the academics and when you look at our hospital, it’s one of the top three hospitals in the world, so it’s special. The program has unbelievable expectations every year, we have great tradition and history. (Host: You like that? Those expectations?) Oh yeah. Absolutely. That’s what I think has helped us have some really good years during my tenure and we hope to get back to being really strong again this season.”

On being able to guide the team and the fans following the article titled “Not the UCLA Way” in Sports Illustrated:

“You don’t guide the fans. The bottom line is that you’re always going to have a lot of scrutiny at a spot like UCLA. That was definitely not a good article, it tried to depict a negative light on the program but our players are very resilient and I think it made our current team closer. It is what it is and I try to learn from the many mistakes I have made and we’re just moving forward. You just put that in the rear view mirror. Today there is always a lot of press coverage, especially with instant social media and you’re always going to have a lot of scrutiny and you just have to deal with it. Not all the media coverage you get can be positive and a lot of times people are looking to be as negative as they can.”

What the latest is with star freshman Shabazz Muhammad and his eligibility:
“Just that the process continues. He’s had a tough go since he arrived because he sprained his ankle, terrible high ankle sprain in the summer and missed literally two months of being able to work out. He was really good early in our practices and then about a week ago today I believe he hurt his shoulder and initially I thought it was really bad but not as bad as I thought. He should be back in about five to seven days but he’s had a tough go.”

Listen to Ben Howland on KJR in Seattle here

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