At the time, Wednesday, April 11 was just another day for Duke basketball fans to forget as the “sky is falling” narrative screeched louder than normal.
That night, Shabazz Muhammad, the No. 2 ranked player in the class of 2012, spurned Duke, opting to grace UCLA with his presence for what will likely be his one and only season on the colliegate hardwood before going to the NBA.
Long before Muhammad’s pledge to the Bruins, widespread rumors about the legitimacy of the dynamic 6-foot-6 swingman’s recruitment were already swirling among avid recruiting fans.
The NCAA quickly caught wind of these potential infractions. Since he signed with UCLA, the NCAA has taken swift action by investigating how Muhammad paid for his suspiciously-high 13 unofficial visits (which universities cannot finance) that occurred outside his hometown of Las Vegas. The NCAA is also looking into whether or not he received any improper benefits from boosters of his AAU program, which shares the same sponsor as his current UCLA team—Adidas.
This summer, the NCAA did not allow Muhammad to play with UCLA in the team’s summer exhibition games in China. On Sunday, Tracy Pierson of Scout.com’s Bruin Report Online wrote, “The eligibility of star freshman Shabazz Muhammad is looking less promising according to sources close to the situation.”
Muhammad’s eligibility concerns drastically swayed my outlook of the importance of him being in a Duke uniform, while reaffirming my belief that the one-and-done rule in college basketball must go, given that it incentivizes bending and breaking rules to get the top-flight NBA talent on campus for nine months.
Aside from Muhammad, there have been a handful of players in the recruiting class of 2012, the current freshmen, with lingering eligibility concerns.
Ahead of Muhammad in the rankings is Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel, with whom Duke tried to get involved, though the interest was never reciprocated. The NCAA is currently investigating the 6-foot-11 shot-blocking machine’s eligibility after growing concerns that some of his unofficial visits were illegally paid for by his entourage.
Having to delay his move to Lexington this summer, Noel recently arrived to Kentucky and the NCAA deemed him academically eligible to attend classes this semester, while his on-the-court eligibility still remains in question.
Rodney Purvis—the No. 20 overall player according to ESPN and another former Duke target—was unable to play with N.C. State this summer for its exhibition tour in Spain. Recently cleared to attend classes, the 6-foot-4 Raleigh native’s academic qualifications, as part of the first-ever graduating class at Upper Room Christian Academy, are under review by the NCAA.
The list drags on. UNLV star freshman Anthony Bennett was deemed eligible to play by the NCAA just over a month ago. Most recently, Bruin Report Online reported Sunday that the NCAA is investigating potential recruiting violations of Muhammad’s freshmen teammates Kyle Anderson and one-time Duke recruit Tony Parker.
To summarize, four of the top 10 players and six of the top 30 players in the class of 2012 are being investigated or have already been investigated by the NCAA for improper benefits or academic eligibility, which makes this class one of the dirtiest in recent memory. And that just encompasses what we know.
So Duke may not have missed on anything when Muhammad and Parker chose UCLA, and when Purvis eventually settled on N.C. State. Rather, the Blue Devils, in all likelihood, won by losing and their immaculate image as a basketball program can live on untarnished.
The same cannot be said for the NCAA as a whole, though. The NBA is causing all sorts of headaches for the NCAA, college basketball programs and most importantly the 18-year old superstar hoopers of the world by inflicting the one-and-done rule.
The kids do not deserve the scrutiny from allegations or the inconvenience of having to wait to profit from their talents and hard work. Programs should not have to risk their livelihood to get the top-flight players on campus, granted eliminating the one-and-done rule would not be a cure all either.
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski may side with this line of thinking too. In the past, he has adamantly defended allowing kids to declare for the draft out of high school and making those who choose to attend universities stay for at least two years.
If the NBA does not change its draft-entry rule, player-eligibility issues will become more common than players slipping on the court due to floor stickers.
The status quo does not translate well as one analyzes the prized recruits in the forthcoming classes. I won’t name names, but there is already smoke surrounding several players in the class of 2013, which is substantially more talent-heavy than the class of 2012.
And where there is smoke, there is often fire.
Regardless of what happens with the rule, it’s no coincidence that Duke avoided the fire in 2012. The Blue Devils will continue to navigate their way to success by signing upstanding student-athletes, while other programs could very well see their skies fall.