Point guards have talent, and questions

There are few teams in the nation that have as much depth and talent at point guard than the Wildcats. Few teams carry two players that came in with the pedigree that Mustafa Shakur and J.P. Prince do and that does not even factor in incoming freshman Nic Wise. With all the talent on hand, why are there so many questions at the position?

Other than the center spot, point guard is one of the few questions on this basketball team. Not only does Arizona have a player who was once the No. 1 point guard recruit in the country, but he has been a starter since day one. Add to that a player who has been compared to Shaun Livingston and another who was the youngest player ever to commit to the program.

The resumes are great, but each player has a big question mark?

Which Mustafa Shakur will show up?

There is no denying that Shakur has talent. His problem is consistency. In three years he has never put together a great string of games. He can play inspired one night and then be a virtual no-show two days later.

The fact of the matter is that when Shakur plays well, the Cats usually win. When he struggles, so do the Wildcats.

Wildcat fans are hoping they see the Shakur who showed up in the NCAA Tournament last season. With the pressure of a low seed and playing in front of his home town fans, Shakur played some of the best basketball of his career. Against Wisconsin and Villanova Shakur averaged 19 points and seven assists. He looked like the player Arizona fans thought they'd see throughout his career when he arrived in Tucson four years ago.

What the Cats can't afford is for Shakur to revert to the performances he had against eventual Pac-10 champion UCLA. In three loses to the Bruins, Shakur averaged just 4.3 points, 3.0 assists and 4.0 turnovers a game.

If Shakur plays like he did in Philadelphia last march, the Wildcats can go a long way. They need him to be the type of well rounded player who can get his teammates involved, yet take the scoring load when the game calls for it. If they get that guy the majority of the season, all the other questions about the point guards are moot, and the Cats could go deep into the tournament.

What's up with J.P. Prince

If Shakur was inconsistent, Prince was puzzling. He showed flashes of brilliance early on but by the end of the season he was relegated to mop-up duty.

Prince has all the tools to be a great one, but there have been questions about his attitude. Other than being suspended for a game, Prince denied having any problems with his role with the team. He did hint about some off the court distractions that hampered his development, but to date has not gone into specifics.

Prince was highly touted coming out of White Station High School in Memphis. He's got rare size, is a great athlete and comes from a basketball family. His father was a college coach and his cousin, as most people know, is Detroit Piston's standout Tayshaun Prince.

Prince came to Arizona with folks knowing his scoring and defense needed work, but what shocked most people was the fact that his decision making was iffy. He was a great passer, but all too often took ill advised shots or tried to make a spectacular and difficult pass, instead of an easy, safe pass.

Prince did not necessarily shine during the Canada trip. Prince averaged just 5.2 ppg and only 2.0 assists per game. For a player expected to factor at point guard, he was fifth on the team, though it must be noted that he played wing most of the trip.

His attitude is the big question. After the end of the season rumors surrounded Prince about the possibility of a transfer. He even hinted about exploring his options in an interview with the Tucson Citizen, but that never materialized. Rumors about other incidents followed him, but Prince has always maintained that both the transfer and attitude rumors were blown out of proportion.

Now Prince has to prove himself. He not only has a senior to worry about but now he has to contend with the freshman Wise who has shined in early season workouts. The good news is that Prince has abilities that no one else on the team has. He has unbelievable size and length. Although Shakur is a tall point guard, he gives up three inches to Prince. Wise is a good nine inches shorter and lacks the reach that Prince has. Although Prince is still developing as a defender, he has the long arms and athleticism to be a fantastic stopper.

Who is Nic Wise?

When Wise committed to Arizona the summer before his sophomore season he was one of the only known commodities in the 2006 class. At the time he was the No. 1 point guard and a top-10 player. Three years later he was a fringe top-100 prospect and a player many overlooked.

Wise's journey was a strange one. His ball handling and quickness made both Arizona and Texas pursue him at the young age, but within a few years many wrote him off when he failed to grow and was still a stocky young man. He was built more like a fullback than a point guard and many just assumed Arizona jumped the gun in recruiting Wise.

Those attitudes began to change last year. Wise did not get too much taller, but he grew up. As he matured the baby fat melted away and revealed a muscular frame. He is still built more like a football player, but those were busy dogging him had to stop and take notice as he led Kingwood High to a state championship. Wise may not be big, but there was no denying he was a winner.

There are still questions about Wise, but most concern his height. His quickness is still there and he appears to be a very coachable player with a great feel for the game. It may be too early to proclaim him as the next Jason Gardner, but the comparisons are more apt than they may have been before.

It remains to be seen if he can consistently get his shot off against taller players, and tall point guards may give him trouble defensively, but overall the prognosis is very good.

After several seasons of selfish, me-first attitudes and a lack of team basketball IQ, Wise may just be the answer this program is looking for.


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