Of the 347 teams in NCAA Division I basketball, UCLA ranks near the top of teams least able to afford an injury. Depth is not a strength for this version of Ben Howland’s Bruins. On a night Reggie Miller will get his number retired and Pauley Pavilion will be hosting a “Blue Out,” the team could potentially be without two starters Wednesday night against rival USC.
Late Monday night, Shabazz Muhammad came down with flu-like symptoms and is questionable. Muhammad did not practice on Tuesday dealing with flu complications, including a fever over 101 degrees, according to Howland.
When asked if he thought Muhammad would be able to play on Wednesday, Howland said “it’s too early to say. He’s got the flu.”
Howland says he’ll be praying for his star guard and leading scorer and “hopefully” he’ll be able to play Wednesday. He also has advice for him on how to deal with playing with flu-like symptoms, including a fever.
During his time at Cerritos High School, Howland was sick when he scored a then-school record 41 points in a game, which stood until 2011.
“I had my best game ever in high school with a fever, so that’s what I’ll tell him,” Howland said. “He won’t have a fever tomorrow. I don’t think –at least I hope not.” Muhammad’s teammates believe the star guard will play.
“We haven’t thought about (him not playing),” Jordan Adams said. “Hopefully he’ll be fine before tomorrow.”
The news of Muhammad falling ill comes in the midst of the Bruins still without forward Travis Wear, who suffered a concussion last Thursday in the win at Arizona.
Wear, who’s listed as day-to-day, participated in shooting and conditioning drills on Monday and Tuesday. According to his twin brother, David, he feels like he is ready to go, however there are still steps he must complete in the concussion protocol.
“He’s doing good,” David said. “He’s eager to get back out on the court.
“He feels 100 percent. He feels like he’s capable of playing. Physically and shooting and exercise and working out, he seems sharp. He seems like he’s all there.”
The NCAA does not have a concussion protocol. Dealing with head injuries is the responsibility of each school. Howland says he is “anticipating” Wear being in the lineup against USC but he’s yet to be cleared by the team doctor.
If Muhammad and Wear are unable to play, the Bruins will be left with just six scholarship players to face their crosstown rivals and their interim head coach Bob Cantu. The duo combines for 30 of the team’s 77 points per game.
The Bruins were down just one man, Travis Wear, on Saturday and were gassed in the second half of their 78-60 loss at Arizona State.
Conditioning is something members of the team, including Howland, all agree they spend a sufficient amount of time on but the lack of bodies becomes critical during game time. “The first half (against Arizona State) we battled but I think the second half, guys just physically, just ran out of energy,” David said. “It was tough.”
Said Kyle Anderson, “It’s just all about us being tough, mentally and physically. At the end of the game we have to crack down and focus on what we came into this game trying to do and (that’s) get a ‘W.’”