UCLA star freshman Shabazz Muhammad is actually 20 years old

Ken Bensinger of the Los Angeles Times wrote a nice column today on UCLA freshman phenom Shabazz Muhammad, a likely NBA lottery pick who’s led the Bruins to a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament. It’s mostly about Muhammad’s father, Ron Holmes, a former USC guard who’s had an eye on branding ever since his college days, executing a “life mission…to raise his three children to be professional athletes.” He chose his kids’  names — Asia, Shabazz, Rashad, from oldest to youngest — based off their marketability potential.

Bensinger dug up a copy of Muhammad’s birth certificate. What he found may surprise.

But a copy of Shabazz Nagee Muhammad’s birth certificate on file with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health shows that he was born at Long Beach Memorial Hospital exactly one year earlier, making him 20 years old — not 19 as widely reported.

How and when he lost a year of his life are unclear. But competing against younger, smaller athletes, particularly in the fast-growing years of early adolescence, can be “a huge edge,” said Eddie Bonine, executive director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Assn. “People naturally look at the big, strong kids.”

Asked about the discrepancy, Holmes insisted his son was 19 and born in Nevada. “It must be a mistake,” he said.

Several minutes later, he changed his account, saying that his son is, in fact, 20 and was born in Long Beach.

Holmes expressed concern about disclosure of his son’s true age and his own criminal record and questioned whether either was newsworthy. He followed up with a text message.

“Bazz is going to blow up in the NBA lets team up and blow this thing up!!!” Holmes wrote to this reporter. “I’m going to need a publicist anyway why shouldn’t it be you. We can do some big things together.”

The story goes into great detail about Muhammad’s upbringing, his journeys on the travel basketball circuit, his commitment to UCLA — “strictly a business decision” — and the disastrous NCAA investigation that included the boyfriend of the key investigator blabbing about Muhammad’s status on a flight.

Despite missing three games because of eligibility issues, Muhammad leads the Bruins with 17.8 points per game and a 53.5 usage percentage, further lending credence to the “man among boys” cliche. They face No. 11 Minnesota in Friday’s nightcap at 9:57 p.m. in Austin.

MUCH, MUCH MORE FROM THE NCAA TOURNAMENT

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Interactive bracket and NCAA tournament history database

The Bracket Challenge contest (Round-by-round)

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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