UCLA's Muhammad cleared by NCAA

UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad is eligible to play immediately, the NCAA announced Friday.

The long-winded saga also known as the Shabazz Muhammad case has come to an end.

The highly-touted freshman from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas has been reinstated by the NCAA.

“I am excited to be able to play for UCLA starting next Monday," Muhammad said in a written statement. "My family and friends were very supportive of me throughout this process and I couldn’t have gone through this without them.”

A week ago today, Muhammad was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for a violation of amateurism rules.

UCLA filed an appeal, which was heard by the NCAA via teleconference on Friday, resulting in Muhammad being reinstated with some stipulations.

“The university required the student-athlete to miss 10 percent of the season (three games) and repay approximately $1,600 in impermissible benefits,” the NCAA released in a statement. “The NCAA agreed the actions taken by the university were sufficient. Because Muhammad has already sat out three games, he is now eligible to compete.”

UCLA and the NCAA agreed Muhammad received financial assistance to take unofficial visits, which is a no-no in the eyes of the NCAA.

“NCAA rules, which member schools create, state that student-athletes cannot receive benefits based on their athletic ability,” the NCAA statement read. “NCAA amateurism rules are in place so that when student-athletes step onto the court, they are competing against other student-athletes who have met the same standards.”

Howland acknowledged early Friday, before the appeal hearing with the NCAA, that this is the first time he’s ever gone through any situation like this with the NCAA. With today's ruling, Howland now has his entire recruiting class - which was rated the best in the country - intact.

“I am relieved that this long, arduous process has come to an end," Howland said in a written statement. "So many people worked very hard on this case and I am eternally grateful to them as well as the Bruin family, who stood by us throughout. I am pleased that Shabazz will be able to begin his collegiate career.” 

Muhammad is considered the top player in the country in the 2012 class and a lottery pick in next year’s draft. He was named the MVP of the 2012 McDonald’s All-Star Game, the Morgan Wooten Player of the Year, and the Naismith High School Boy’s Player of the Year as a senior. Having him in the lineup significantly increases UCLA’s chance of a return to the Final Four.

“He’s a great talent,” Howland said. “He’s a great kid. He works extremely hard. He’s got a great motor, so I think he’s going to be a heck of a player.”

No. 13 UCLA will travel to Brooklyn on Saturday to conclude the Legends Classic at the brand new Barclays Center. The Bruins will face Georgetown at 5 p.m. Monday, and after Friday’s news from the NCAA should have Muhammad in the lineup. UCLA will conclude the Legends Classic on Tuesday against Georgia or No. 1 Indiana.