Changing of the guard

By Shane Dale
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 21, 2003

Is freshman phenom Shakur ready to take the reins at 'Point Guard U'?

Steve Kerr. Damon Stoudamire. Jason Terry. Jason Gardner. Mustafa Shakur?

The next great UA point guard may be here.

No one knows for sure if he's the next, but Shakur, a 6-foot-3 freshman out of Friends Central High School in the Philadelphia area, likes his chances of building his own legacy at the point.

"We've produced a lot of great guards here. I just wanna contribute," Shakur said. "(The point guard comparison) is a great compliment, but I'd rather be myself out there."

Fully aware of Arizona's outstanding point guard tradition, the highly-recruited Shakur said the decision to come play for Lute Olson was easy.

"I knew I was going to come here," he said. "I just wanted to take my other visits and think about it, but I knew."

Olson believes Shakur brings more to the court than just the prolific passing ability that marquee point guards are expected to possess.

"Our very best guard-rebounder, without question, is Mustafa," Olson said.

Shakur averaged 5.5 rebounds in Arizona's first two preseason games to go with 12 points and 8.5 assists per game.

Though Shakur is the man at the point heading into the season, he may find sophomore guard Chris Rodgers cutting into his playing time.

"Chris will be one of our key players, whether he's in the starting lineup or being our version of (former UA guard) Jason Terry," Olson said, referring to Terry's role as the Wildcats' sixth man when Arizona won the 1997 national championship.

But Shakur said he wants to do whatever he can to help the team win - and if that includes giving up a few of his minutes, so be it.

Shakur is also excited about the idea of he and Rodgers sharing the court at times during the season.

"It is a big advantage having two point guards on the floor at once," he said. "It gives our team more control. I think it is a possibility to have that lineup out there during the season. We can both run the floor and we work together."

Regardless, Olson believes there to be no doubt that Shakur's presence will be felt immediately.

"Oh yes, he'll be a factor right away," he said. "The way we play, we need some numbers out there."

His on-court skills aside, Shakur's greatest asset could be his lack of arrogance and his eagerness to listen and learn.

"His disposition, I think, is his greatest asset. You don't see any cockiness," said Bob Elliott, a current Wildcat broadcaster and former UA All-American during the 1970s. "When the coaching staff talks to Mustafa, he's right in their eyes. He's very coachable and he stays in the (same) type of disposition, which I think, quite frankly, is kind of refreshing in today's age."

Shakur could be the type of high school phenom who lives up to the hype after making the next step, according to Elliott.

"He'll have a great career," he said. "He'll be the next one to come out of 'Point Guard U.'"