When watching Shabazz Muhammad, you can just tell.
Even though he's shot 50 percent from the field and averaged 18 points per game over his first two national spotlight-grabbing affairs (when Shabazz Muhammad plays, they aren't games, they are events), you can tell the UCLA star freshman is light years from being a finished product.
You can tell that everything from the past several months has taken a toll on him—the prolonged NCAA investigation, the ankle injury, the shoulder injury, the three missed games, the lack of practice before his first collegiate performance.
You can tell that he's gained the freshman 15 quicker than most first-years and that even though he's not the most athletic player to begin with, he's lacking that necessary athleticism and quickness with his dribble.
But as Muhammad, arguably the most scrutinized player in the nation, gets, you know, more than a week of playing time under his belt, those things will come.
There's a reason this kid was the No. 1 ranked prospect in the country and is a solid candidate to go No. 1 in next year's NBA draft.
He's oozing with the talent. The silky-smooth left-handed jumper (although I'm not sure any left-hander's jumper doesn't look smooth). The James Harden-like ability to knife his way into the lane and finish in a crowd. The Michael Kidd-Gilchrist-like motor. The readiness to go 100 percent on every possession. The crazy competitive nature.
Muhammad is a special talent. While his first two games have been seen as largely underwhelming, the fact that he's scratching the surface of that talent despite all the surrounding conditions is a monumental accomplishment that's flying under the radar.
The scary part is that he's only going to get better. Take one NBA scout's word for it (via sny.tv's Adam Zagoria):
NBA scout on Shabazz Muhammad after 2 games: "He is going to have a heck of a year as long as he stays healthy.”— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) November 21, 2012
Muhammad has over a month and eight games—which includes a solid mix of god tests (San Diego State, Missouri) and cupcakes (mmm, cupcakes)—until Pac-12 play starts.
Not only is that extra preparation going to help him, it's going to help the team.
During the last two games, it became painfully clear that head coach Ben Howland hasn't found a rotation pattern that he likes. There is so much talent on this team and so many players that need their shots, and it's difficult to make everyone coexist.
Over time, Howland will figure out who works best with each other, and it will only go further in developing the young talent.
Muhammad is slightly overweight and a lot rusty. He's gone up against a terrifying 2-3 zone that stymied his biggest strengths. He's played far from his best basketball and his team is still working out the kinks.
And he's still scored 36 points on just 22 shots.
Um, yeah. Watch out, Pac-12.
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