Shakur's AAU Coach Sheds Light on PG's Recruitment

A lot of AAU coaches get a bad rap. Most are perceived to be in it for themselves or seeking to better their own lives while putting the best interest of their kids on the backburner. Hunting Park (PA) Warriors coach Greg Wright is one of the pleasant exceptions.

Greg Wright has known Mustafa Shakur since the nation's top point guard prospect was a skinny nine-year-old kid trying to play ball with the older boys of the neighborhood.

In this day and age of AAU coaches conveniently fielding offers from major colleges to become assistant coaches (should their star player be included in the package deal, of course), Wright has no such delusions of moving on when Shakur does after this season. Rather, he just wants to continue coaching and watch Mustafa's games and become a fan of whatever school he chooses to play for.

"I'll find a way to get out for his games whether he's in Arizona or at (North Carolina) State or in Egypt," Wright said. "We're pretty close. Mustafa and I talk or see each other pretty much every day. We almost live in the same house. He helps keep me young, they all do, all of my guys. I think I'm going to have to kidnap him so he can't leave. I want him for another five years."

Over the summer, Shakur played well enough to earn most recruiting analyst's top ranking at the point guard position in the 2002 class. However, in Las Vegas, Shakur suffered a painful hip pointer injury that limited his effectiveness for the first few games of the tournament.

"He doesn't have any pain (in his hip) anymore," Wright said. "The last game or two in Vegas was the Mustafa we all know. He makes us 100% better when he's 100% healthy...and even when he's not. He's a very special player and a person."

The recruiting saga has come down to two final schools: Arizona and NC State. Shakur will host an in-home visit with Arizona on September 10th and then make his first ever trek to the Wildcats' campus in Tucson a few days later on the 13th-15th.

"Mustafa is really family oriented," Wright said. "That's what he's going to look for in the team. He can adjust to any coaching style or system so the big thing is the team unity and getting a feel for who his teammates would be."

With the Wildcat backcourt seemingly busting at the seams with talented guards, a lot has been made lately about whether or not immediate playing time would be available should he elect to play at Arizona.

"First of all, Mustafa is as competitive as it gets," Wright said. "He feels that there isn't anyone out there that he can't compete with. There's a lot of fire in him.

"He looks for competitive situations. Sure he wants to play but he wants someone to challenge him. With the guards (Arizona) has he knows that nothing will be given to him and whatever he gets he will have had to have earned and he'll be a better player and person because of it."

Wright said he has had some serious conversations with Shakur and made sure that he was aware of what each of his top two schools were doing as far as recruitment goes.

"I asked him if he was paying attention to what was going on at the two schools," Wright said. "He said 'yes' and that he knew that Arizona was looking at some other guards but that it didn't deter him at all. He just wants to play and he definitely does not plan on losing wherever he goes."

Coach Wright was asked to describe what he has found to be the most memorable moment of the whole recruiting process that both he and Mustafa have gone through. Almost immediately he had his answer.

"Right after Mustafa first met Lute Olson," Wright said. "I've seen him smile before but this time he smiled all the way home. I had to say, 'Staf, you look like you're giddy or something'. He just kept on smiling. He was almost speechless."

The nine-year-old boy that Wright first met on the blacktop of Philadelphia is now mere weeks away from choosing where he will play in college.

"No matter where he goes, I'll find a way to get out there and watch him. He's such a special person. It's going to be hard to not have him here anymore. And he'll make everyone around him better, too."

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