UCLA's Muhammad feels explosive again

UCLA's Muhammad working on conditioning after hitting heaviest weight of career.

LOS ANGELES - When Shabazz Muhammad took the floor for the first time as a UCLA Bruin, the theoretical weight of an NCAA investigation had been lifted. Unfortunately for the prized recruit, but his real life  became a huge hindrance.

You can call it the "Freshman 15," or in Muhammad’s case the "Freshman 20."

The Bruins heralded freshman’s weight was up to 235 pounds from the 215 he was at Bishop Gorman High School as a senior. From a conditioning standpoint, it was the worst shape he’d ever been in.  Muhammad described getting up and down the floor as “hard.”

“I was really out of shape when we played Georgetown and Georgia,” he said.

Suffering a severe ankle injury and also a shoulder injury before the season, in addition to the NCAA investigation, Muhammad did a lot of sitting around. He was also eating a lot which led to him putting on the pounds. He’s since made modifications to his diet.

“Ever since I’ve been on my own in college, you can eat whatever you want,” Muhammad said. “I think that’s just a maturity thing.”

He's quickly trying to adjust, ditching fast food and candy and opting for salads. He also stopped drinking juice, opting for water instead.

He says in the last week he’s dropped around 13 pounds down to 222, most of which has been fat, saying he’s been able to retain muscle. He doesn’t have much weight to lose. His goal is to get in the 215-220 pound range.

He’s already seeing improvements in his game.

He scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half of UCLA’s 65-63 win over Texas last Saturday at Reliant Stadium in Houston. 

“It impacted my athletic ability,” Muhammad says of the extra weight. “Right now I’m really getting up and showing my explosive ability that I had all along. “

Now I can just feel my explosive ability just rising and I’m (going to) keep improving.”

The UCLA coaching staff has had to tell Muhammad to be more aggressive on the offensive end of the floor. A talented scorer, Muhammad didn’t want to assert himself into the offense because of his lack of conditioning.

As the win against Texas proved, he’s become more willing.

That’s good news for UCLA fans who haven’t been able to see all that Muhammad is capable of through his first six games as a Bruin.

“You’ll see the motor that doesn’t stop and him just going out there dominating his defender,” said fellow freshman Jordan Adams.