Shabazz Muhammad, Wolves top draft pick, is older than he said he was

After being drafted by the Wolves, Muhammad was asked about his damaged reputation. "I think I'm repairing it," he replied.
After being drafted by the Wolves, Muhammad was asked about his damaged reputation. "I think I'm repairing it," he replied.

Most Timberwolves fans are wailing and gnashing their teeth this morning over the way Flip Saunders handled his first draft as the team's top front office decision-maker.

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With all his coveted players off the board by the time the Wolves first selection came around, Saunders traded the 9th pick to Utah for the 14th and 21st. Then, at 14, he took UCLA's controversial Shabazz Muhammad. Muhammad, regarded as a top five pick just months ago, plummeted down the draft board after the LA Times revealed he's actually older than people thought he was.

The Times's March feature on Muhammad is mostly about how his father, Ron Holmes, spent two decades guiding his son toward an NBA career and the big paychecks it entails. But perhaps the most fascinating tidbit pertains to Muhammad's age. A look at his birth certificate revealed he's actually a year older than he and his father had been saying. Here's an excerpt:

According to the UCLA men's basketball media guide, he was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 13, 1993.

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."

Muhammad also generated negative publicity for an incident last season where he sulked off the floor after one of his UCLA teammates hit a game-winning shot. Muhammad was reportedly disappointed he didn't get the opportunity to take the shot himself.

After the draft, Saunders offered a measured defense of the Muhammad selection.

"It's not a popular pick... Our guys at No. 9 were off the board," he acknowledged. But Saunders characterized Muhammad as "extremely competitive" and said, "I do believe one thing: Here's a kid that prior to the season was rated as maybe the No. 1 pick in the draft. He'll come in and he'll play with a chip on his shoulder."

During a conference call with local reporters, Muhammad concurred with his new boss's chip-on-the-shoulder analysis.

"I definitely have a chip on my shoulder and really can't wait to get to work and really take the coaching well," he said. "I think I ended up in a really good situation for myself with Minnesota. I really think I can [make] an immediate impact with the team."

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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