LOS ANGELES -- When Shabazz Muhammad took the floor for the first time as a UCLA Bruin, the weight of the NCAA investigation had been lifted, but the weight he carried became a huge hindrance.
You can call it the "Freshman 15," or in Muhammads case the "Freshman 20."
The heralded freshmans 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 hed 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.
Between a severe preseason ankle injury, a shoulder injury and the NCAA investigation, Muhammad did a lot of sitting around.
He was also eating a lot which led to him putting on the pounds. Hes since made modifications to his diet.
Ever since Ive been on my own in college, you can eat whatever you want, Muhammad said. I think thats just a maturity thing.
Muhammad did the mature thing and took initiative. He ditched the fast food and candy and opted for salads. He also stopped drinking juice, opting for water instead.
He says in the last week hes dropped roughly 13 pounds and is down to 222, most of which has been fat, saying hes been able to retain muscle. He doesnt have much weight to lose. His goal is to get in the 215-220 pound range.
Hes already seeing improvements in his game.
He scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half of UCLAs 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 Im really getting up and showing my explosive ability that I had all along.
Now I can just feel my explosive ability just rising and Im (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 didnt want to assert himself into the offense because of his lack of conditioning.
As the win against Texas proved, hes become more willing.
Thats good news for UCLA fans who havent been able to see all that Muhammad is capable of through his first six games as a Bruin.
Youll see the motor that doesnt stop and him just going out there dominating his defender, said fellow freshman Jordan Adams.