NEW YORK -- UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad practiced Monday at Barclays Center at full strength, knowing neither his health nor his eligibility will be in question when he takes the court later in the evening in the Bruins' game against Georgetown in the Legends Classic (8 ET, ESPN2).
Muhammad's left ankle injury, which kept him off the floor for nine weeks this past summer, has healed. His injured shoulder also is fine. And the NCAA is off his back after denying him eligibility for the Bruins' first three games. It was agreed that Muhammad would pay back $1,600 in expenses for unofficial recruiting visits made two years ago.
"It feels great," Muhammad said of being cleared to play. "I can't wait to join my team inside and hopefully get a win."
UCLA coach Ben Howland said Monday during the team's shootaround that he wouldn't start Muhammad, but the 6-foot-6 guard will play plenty. Howland said he was concerned about the conditioning of Muhammad, who had made only about four practices because of the injuries.
Howland said he feels as if the season has started anew with Muhammad eligible, and with players such as Kyle Anderson, Tyler Lamb, Larry Drew II and Jordan Adams all healthy or on the road toward healing from various ailments.
The mood at Monday's shootaround was upbeat. Howland said the chemistry built on the team's trip to China in August (sans Muhammad) has carried over since its return.
But the NCAA flap kept the Bruins from moving forward, even with a 3-0 start.
"It wasn't good," Muhammad said of waiting to see if he would be cleared. "I was hoping I would get cleared for this team and I'm blessed with that."
Muhammad, who was the top player in the ESPN 100 Class of 2012, said he'll have an impact on the game, especially against a guard-heavy team like Georgetown.
Georgetown coach John Thompson III agrees.
"He is always coming at you," Thompson said, having watched Muhammad play in high school the past two years. "He's very active."