"When Jawann (McClellan) went to ABCD this summer he came back and told me that Mustafa Shakur was the closest thing to Magic Johnson he had ever seen," Jawann's father George McClellan said recently. "And for Jawann to say a guy is good, he's got to be really good."
"I'll tell you what," says the Recruiting Cheat Sheet's Jimmy Hicks. "Mustafa Shakur is a cross between the old Earvin ("Magic") Johnson and a young Penny Hardaway. He's smooth, he can score and he passes as well as anyone I've seen in a long, long time."
"He's like Gary Payton," says former NBA scout ‘Aaron Jones'. "Except that Mustafa doesn't look to score as much as Payton did in college. He will make everyone around him exponentially better, especially those horses (Arizona has) down there. Combine him with Salim Stoudamire, Hassan Adams and Andre Iguodala? Are you kidding me?"
Being compared to Magic Johnson, Penny Hardaway and Gary Payton is a huge compliment to Shakur and to the hard work that he's put into becoming such a good player. However, the nation's No. 1 rated point guard chooses another player when he talks about his style of play.
Former Arizona Wildcat point guard Mike Bibby.
"I'd say Mike Bibby," Shakur said of the former Wildcat All-American. "I can handle the ball, pass the ball and score. If I have good players on my team I won't force the issue, I'll try to make them all happy by getting them the ball. But if my team is struggling, I can make things happen by scoring also."
Shakur averaged 19 points and nine assists per game as a junior a year ago and had a fantastic summer in the major tournaments, including ABCD and the Las Vegas Big Time. Over the course of the summer he did nothing to hurt his standing as the country's No. 1 point guard from the class of 2003. If anything, he elevated his status to the level of "top five in the entire class, regardless of position."
In Las Vegas, Shakur suffered a painful hip pointer injury that kept him sidelined for most of his Hunting Park Warrior AAU team's first two games. However, in the following game, he matched up against the No. 1 point guard from 2004's class – 6'6" Shaun Livingston – and scored 29 points while playing at nowhere near 100%. They named his AAU team after him because he is most definitely a Warrior.
The real Mustafa Shakur was the one who came to play while he was in Tucson for his official visit to Arizona. He took part in a Saturday afternoon pickup session with the current Wildcat players and might have been the best player on the court. Current Wildcat point guard – and emerging Arizona Legend – Jason Gardner showed Shakur that he still had some growing up to do and that he was in Gardner's house but the "Philly Phlash" impressed even Jason with his play.
On that day, Shakur thrived with equally talented players surrounding him. His 12 assist, one turnover performance had those who watched the pickup game in awe. He was very reminiscent of Mike Bibby. The difference is that Shakur is taller and an even better passer while Bibby is the better shooter.
The coaching staff took notice of Shakur shortly after the New Year and once head coach Lute Olson saw him it became apparent that Shakur was a "must-have" recruit. Olson made it a point to attend each of Shakur's games in Vegas and even while he was in Italy for this past few weeks, he was still very clear about his intentions for the staff in Tucson: "Get Mustafa". Simple as that.
When Shakur announced this afternoon, it put to bed months of speculation about where he would wind up in college. Arizona and North Carolina State were his two finalists and both offered a lot to him in terms of playing time, exposure and good competition. In the end though, Arizona's rich tradition of sending guards to the NBA won out over the chance NC State offered for guaranteed immediate playing time.
"I liked all the point guards that they've had." Shakur said. "Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Gardner. Those guys spent three or four years there even though some left early and some didn't. I know that (Josh Pastner) was one of their point guards, too. Plus, I like how (Arizona) runs a lot of NBA sets. Even in the half-court sets you can see that it's NBA stuff."
One of the drawbacks to coming to Arizona was that some feared that his family wouldn't be able to watch him play very much back on the East Coast. However, Mustafa quickly put that argument to rest.
"Arizona has been on TV a lot out here," he said. "I watched them whenever I got the chance and saw them get to the Sweet 16. It's such a good basketball school that it's hard not to see them play."
Mustafa has said many times that he doesn't want to be handed anything and that he wants to earn the playing time that he gets. At Arizona he'll have a chance to prove those words true because the competition in practice alone will be fierce on a daily basis. In fact, matching up against Chris Rodgers, Salim Stoudamire, Will Bynum and Hassan Adams in practice each day might be the stiffest competition he faces his entire freshman year.
Shakur joins fellow Wildcat recruit Ndudi Ebi (6'9" WF, Houston) to form one of America's best (arguably the best) two-man recruiting classes of 2003.
More importantly though, he joins Eric Money, Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry and Gardner as the next great Arizona point guard. Shakur's commitment ensures that Arizona will be known as "Point Guard University" well into the future.
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Contact Ben Hansen at Bhansen6677@aol.com