PRODUCTS: Khalid Reeves (1991-94); Damon Stoudamire (1992-95); Jason Terry (1996-99); Mike Bibby (1997-98); Gilbert Arenas (2000-01); Jason Gardner (2000-03); Mustafa Shakur (2004- ).
When Mustafa Shakur was working out at the McKale Center this summer, he would often glance at the banners hanging from the rafters and think about Arizona's rich history of prolific point guards. When Shakur started to get tired, the responsibility of carrying the torch usually inspired him to keep pushing and work harder. And if that didn't work, Jason Terry or Mike Bibby might wander in and offer some advice.
"Two of the main reasons I came to Arizona were to play for Coach O and to follow in the footsteps of so many great [point] guards," says Shakur. "You have the opportunity to get noticed and play at the next level. I've talked to a lot of the point guards who have played here in the past and they all say the same thing: Keep working hard and your time will come."
To be a point guard at Arizona you have to be tough, play with attitude, run the team with breakneck speed and be able to score. Guard play has enabled Wildcats coach Lute Olson to take four teams to the Final Four and win the national championship in 1997. Bibby was the floor leader on that team and Shakur has long admired his predecessors' ability to put the team on their backs and carry them to victories.
Olson's system is attractive to point guards because he lets them play and loves to push the ball. He also surrounds his guards with outstanding athletes. Most of Olson's point guards have a city game and come in with the brashness, confidence -- often a cockiness -- that carries them through good times and bad. Shakur honed his skills on the streets of Philadelphia and his thick skin has enabled him to deal with a brunt of criticism over the last two years. Playing in the shadows of Salim Stoudamire, Channing Fyre and Hassan Adams, Shakur often deferred offensively to the upperclassmen and his pass-first mentality was viewed as an inability to score. That's something Shakur promises to change this season.
"We had three pros in the last two years and I had a role to play," says Shakur. "It was frustrating to be in the position I was in because I've always been a scorer. I was just trying to do what's best for the team. A lot of people didn't see that; they just assumed I couldn't score. This year, I'm going to have the opportunity to be more of an option offensively. I'll be more aggressive on the offensive end and hopefully I'll be able to show what I can do."
If Shakur can carry the torch of his predecessors this season, Arizona will be in good hands.