WESTWOOD, Calif.--- Shabazz Muhammad was the top basketball recruit in the nation while in high school. After graduating, he chose UCLA as the institution to attend and play college ball. 

But besides basketball, Muhammad is just like everyone else: He enjoys music, video games, NBA games and the city of Los Angeles. He is even someone who believes that a healthy diet and exercise contribute to being successful on the court. Muhammad made it clear that his diet and weight loss are helping him get his explosiveness back. He weighed 245 pounds before the season began and managed to drop approximately 10-12 pounds in a week; he hopes to get down to about 215-220 pounds.

Now, Muhammad said he’s focused to get the team back into a winning mode, and he believes UCLA can regain its rich basketball tradition.

Campus Circle conducted an exclusive interview with Muhammad, 19, and he talked about his decision to select the Bruins over other programs, academics, the UCLA campus, his favorite NBA basketball player, hobbies and more.

Campus Circle: Ultimately, what made you choose UCLA over other schools?

Shabazz Muhammad: I just looked at the campus. I mean it was second to none with the academics and [the] mixture between basketball and the tradition here.

CC: Your father was a USC Trojan. How did he react toward your decision to become a UCLA Bruin? 

SM: He wanted me to go to SC in the beginning. But when all these schools started recruiting me, he looked at the bigger picture and UCLA…I just liked [UCLA] a little bit more than SC, and he respected that.

CC: How do you manage college basketball and your academics?

SM: I mean it’s hard, but you just have to stay focused, you just have to study and after you study it’s all about basketball. It’s a really hectic schedule, but it’s something you have to deal with.

CC: What do you like most about the UCLA campus?

SM: I think what I like most is that everything is so close, like Ackerman and the gym. I just like Pauley [Pavilion]. Pauley is such a nice arena to play in…

CC: While in college, is Los Angeles how you imagined it?

SM: Yeah. I love L.A. I’m from here, so it’s great. Even in Westwood it’s like our own little village or town, so it’s great. 

CC: What do you do in your free time? What are your hobbies?

SM: I play video games. I’m a big video game guy, especially since we have practice now; I’m not trying to go out as much. So, I just sit at home and play video games.

CC: What kind of video games do you play?

SM: I play 2K12, basketball games, soccer games and Call of Duty. Those are my three main ones. 

CC: What kind of music and artists do you have on your iPod?

SM: Drake, Jay-Z and Lil’ Wayne - those kind of guys. I’m not into hardcore rap, but [I like] hip-hop that really flows. I like 2Pac, Dr. Dre, Notorious B.I.G. - those guys, too.

CC: Who was your favorite basketball player growing up? Why?

SM: Kobe [Bryant] just because my family [members] are die-hard Lakers fans, and I just got brainwashed.

CC: Besides basketball, what other sports do you like?

SM: No other sports; just basketball right now. I think Coach Ben Howland would kill us if he found out that we were doing other sports. But if I could play another sport, it would probably be football. I love watching football; I think I could actually get out there and catch some passes.

CC: Overall, who will have a better basketball season: Clippers or Lakers?

SM: I think the Clippers right now. 

CC: What do you think about the Lakers’ season thus far? What are their issues?

SM: I think their biggest issue right now is that they’re not jelling as a team yet. They don’t know their guys’ roles. Dwight [Howard] is such a good player, Kobe is such a good player, but I think when they get [Steve] Nash and [Pau] Gasol back, they are really going to start jelling as a team and become a better basketball team. 

CC: What advice can you give the youth who is striving to reach a career in basketball or possibly follow in your footsteps?

SM: Never give up. At a time when I was not as tall as everybody, and I wasn’t as good, I just never gave up on the sport and kept on trying. When you try at anything, even school wise, you always learn to succeed.