Basketball Preview: Point Guards

The point guard spot is one with a lot of talent, but a lot of questions as well. The Cats bring back an inconsistent senior, a talented, but unpredictable sophomore and welcome a player who Wildcat fans have waited over three years to see wear an Arizona uniform.

Mustafa Shakur
6-3, 190, SR.
Philadelphia, Pa. (Friends Central H.S.)

After flirting with the NBA, Mustafa Shakur decided to return to Arizona for his senior season. When Mustafa came to Arizona he was touted as the highest ranked high school guard recruit in his class along with Chris Paul of Wake Forest (and now the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets). Obviously, Mustafa has not yet lived up to the monumental expectations that were set for him at Arizona, but that does not mean that he will not have a great senior campaign.

Last season Shakur averaged 11.2 points and 4.7 assists. His play improved as the season wore on, and he had his best games of the season during the NCAA Tournament in his hometown of Philadelphia; Shakur averaged roughly 20 points, 7 assists, and 4 boards between the two Tournament games last year.

The moment that I most remember from last year was when Marcus Williams missed the shot at the end of the Villanova game that would have sent the game into overtime and Shakur put his arm around his freshman teammate. That type of leadership is what Mustafa needs to continue to provide for this team next year. This is his chance to prove that he can be a leading point guard in the country.

Shakur's shot mechanics and his inconsistency scoring have been issues, and unless his jumper is completely retooled, could be problem areas again next year. His shooting percentage has remarkably dropped almost 10% between his freshman and junior seasons, and it can be attributed mostly to shot selection and mechanics. He has consistently been a strong finisher when he decides to take the ball to the basket, but has not been consistently aggressive.

Shakur has a very quick first step, and if he can continue to improve upon his decision making, could be an excellent pass first point guard. With the finishers and scorers that Arizona will be stacked with next year, Shakur should lead the PAC-10 in assists. Last year's stats: 11.2 ppg, 4.7 ast, 3.7 reb, 42% FG, 33% 3-pt FG

This year's projections:15 ppg, 6 ast, 4.5 reb

J.P. Prince
6-6. 186, SO.
Memphis, Tenn. (White Station H.S.)

Prince has all of the physical tools that a point guard should possess. He is long, has excellent court vision, and crafty. J.P. had a frustrating freshman year that was marred by constant rumors of a possible transfer, and rumblings about Prince's drive to succeed. He was knocked for his work ethic, his lack of a general basketball IQ, and his overall approach to the game.

The fact that Prince is still in an Arizona jersey makes for an interesting story line and he is one of a few "wildcards" on this team for next year. Will he step up and assert himself as the back-up point guard and heir apparent to the point guard throne, or will he move himself further down the bench? By the end of the season, Prince was moved to "fill-in" duties. He only saw the court for 26 total minutes in the Wildcats' final 10 games, three of which he did not play in at all, after averaging close to 20 minutes per game in the first half of the season. Prince has shown an inconsistent ability to score from the outside or finish on the inside, but I believe that once he asserts himself as a scorer, he will be a significantly more effective point guard and playmaker.

Prince is extremely talented, and the 'Cats need a strong back-up point guard next season. If Prince plays well enough and works hard enough in practice his minutes could double, and if not he will be relegated to the bench and the rumor mill will rumble once again.

Last year's numbers: 12.4 min, 2.2 ppg, 1.9 reb, 1.8 ast

This year's projections: 15 min, 5 ppg, 3 reb, 3 ast

Nic Wise
5-9, 190, FR
Houston, TX (Kingwood HS)

I cannot recall a player with less national hype (a four-star recruit, ranked 21st at his position by who has yielded as much local excitement as Nic Wise. The reason is simple: watch Wise play and you will immediately be reminded of Jason Gardner. Their size, court demeanor, and overall approach to the game in general are all very similar. Wise uses the exact same step back jumper as Gardner, runs his team like Gardner, and has a similar build. Gardner is one of only a handful of players to have his number retired at Arizona, and thus these types of comparisons are pretty preposterous at this point.

Wise is a pass first point guard who may be the "floor general" that Arizona has been missing since Gardner's departure. He may be the diminutive guy with all of the "heart" and drive to resurrect memories of Gardner, yet he also may not have the intangibles that made Gardner so great. Wise averaged 17 points per contest, leading his high school team to the state championship game.

One knock on Wise is that he committed to Arizona prior to his sophomore season when he first burst upon the scene. His rankings were off the chart back then, but as other players emerged and Wise failed to grow, his rankings dropped and the national media started to ignore what he was doing in Houston. Wise is flat-out the type of unselfish, winner that the Cats have needed the past few seasons. He was impressive on the Canada trip and could make a push for minutes this season.

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