Top-ranked high school basketball player Shabazz Muhammad is expected to choose between UCLA and Kentucky sometime in the next week, according to reports.
CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman reports that both coaching staffs believe that the No. 1 player in the country is done to them, but that the star 6-foot-6 small forward isn't expected to make a decision public until April 11th. The addition of Muhammad to either team would be a huge addition, especially for a program like UCLA that has received some negative publicity from a Sports Illustrated story earlier this year.
The SI piece led some to believe it could be the end for coach Ben Howland, but a strong recruiting class led by Kyle Anderson is believed to have played a part in getting another year in Westwood. The addition of Muhammad would instantly make the Bruins the favorite to win the Pac-12.
Shabazz Muhammad is the guy they have to get, Joel Francisco, ESPN.com's West Coast recruiting coordinator, told the Los Angeles Times. He would be such an impact player and possibly a conference player of the year as a freshman.
The other main contender won't be easy to knock out. The Kentucky Wildcats are coming off their first national title in 14 years and coach John Calipari is known as one of the best recruiters in the country. Calipari is currently rumored to be a top target to become the next New York Knicks coach, which could have an impact on where top uncommitted players decide to sign their Letters of Intent.
If Calipari decides to stay in Lexington, he'll have a very good chance to land Muhammad and some of the other best players available. The other top target available is center Nerlens Noel, who reclassified to the class of 2012 this year. The 6-foot-10 shotblocker has narrowed his list to Kentucky, Georgetown, and Syracuse and is expected to make a decision in the near future.
Many considered Kentucky to be the early favorite to land Rivals.com's No. 3 player in the country, but the Georgetown Hoyas have made considerable ground of late. Scout.com's Evan Daniels reported on Wednesday that 3 industry sources tell me they think Nerlens Noel will end up at Georgetown. CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello affirmed the report saying that the Hoyas were making a push for the talented high school player.
Georgetown has two commits for 2012, but is not ranked in Scout.com's Top 25 rankings. The addition of Noel could help propel a team that's expected to experience a big drop-off back to the NCAA Tournament.
By comparison Kentucky already has the No. 2 class in the country without factoring in possibly adding Muhammad, Noel, or Anthony Bennett. Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley, and Archie Goodwin are all expected to make major contributions next year, especially if Kentucky loses the bulk of its starters, as expected. The Wildcats will likely lose their entire starting five -- Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Doron Lamb - to the NBA.