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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Q & A with former Wildcat Mustafa Shakur

Editors Note: Former Wildcat Mustafa Shakur was a highly decorated recruit. Coming out of high school, he was ranked higher than NBA All-Star point guard Chris Paul. He played four years (2003-2007) under Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson, starting in all but two games at Arizona. But despite the accolades in high school, Shakur’s inconsistent career at Arizona resulted in the former Wildcat going undrafted after his senior year at Arizona in 2007. The Arizona Daily Wildcat caught up with Shakur to discuss playing in the D-League, working out with Nic Wise and whether the Wildcats will extend their streak to 26.

Daily Wildcat: So you got drafted with the first pick in the second round of the NBA Developmental League draft and now you’re averaging 20 points and six assists through the first six games. How has life been in the D-League through six games?

Mustafa Shakur: It’s been pretty good in some aspects, and in other ways it’s been tough. Having six games in nine nights is really tough on your body, but I’m really learning some things as I go along.

DW: Since your final year in Arizona in 2007, I understand you’ve played in three different countries?

MS: Yeah, I played in Poland — where I won a national championship — Spain and Greece.

DW: What made you decide to stay in the States and play in the D-League rather than go back overseas?

MS: Well, I thought it was the perfect time. I felt that I had improved so much, and I felt that I was ready to show everyone what I had improved on and worked so hard on.

DW: It has to be a huge adjustment money-wise from the D-League and overseas.

MS: Yeah it’s definitely a big, big, big difference money-wise. It’s no comparison, I’m not going to get into the numbers, but when you come to the D-League you have to understand you’re here to learn, improve and showcase for the next level. You’re not here to make money or make a living for your family. You’re here to get to the next level.

DW: I heard that D-League players have to take long bus rides and stay in motel rooms. Is that all accurate?

MS: That’s not really accurate. They really take care of us well in the D-League. The only difference, in comparison to the NBA, is that we don’t have private planes. So we can’t fly out directly after a game, so sometimes we fly out the next morning. Overseas was much tougher. In some areas we had to take 10- to 13-hour bus rides to a game.

DW: So you do fly in the D- League?

MS: Yeah, we fly everywhere in the D-League.

DW: Seeing that you played in three different countries and now you’re in Tulsa, (Okla.), what keeps you fighting through this nomadic lifestyle?

MS: Well, I love to play basketball and my ultimate goal is to be an NBA player for the rest of my career, so that pretty much keeps me going every day. From the outside looking in, it may seem hectic but it’s been pretty fun so far. I have great experiences in every country I’ve been in.

DW: The Tulsa 66ers are owned and operated by the Oklahoma City Thunder, so have you envisioned playing alongside Kevin Durant and company?

MS: I haven’t really envisioned myself with the Thunder or any other team. I’ve just been focusing on doing the best I can with my teammates every day. When that day comes, it will be a pretty good transition because we actually run the same plays and offense that Oklahoma City does.

DW: Have you kept track with Arizona basketball since your last year in 2007?

MS: Yeah, I definitely kept up with it, but it was much tougher overseas because of the time zone and not having the channels to keep track. I even worked out with Nic Wise a little bit over the summer.

DW: Well, Nic is the only player on the current roster that was on the team when you were on the team.

MS: Yeah, exactly, but I actually worked out with Jamelle Horne a little bit too. I saw both of those guys working really hard over the summer. Over the summer, I worked out with (current LA Clippers assistant coach) John Lucas, who has workouts in Houston with a lot of college guys and pros. I stayed over the summer so I got a chance to talk and workout with Nic. Saw him and his father, so it was cool.

DW: Isn’t it amazing how time flies and Nic is now the senior leader to the young freshmen the same way that you were to him in your senior year?

MS: It is crazy how time flies but we’ve always known that Nic has had that in him, it was just a matter of time. Now it’s his time. He’s worked hard and he deserves everything he is getting.

DW: The team was actually in Norman, (Okla.) last night. Did you get a chance to catch that game?

MS: Nah, I didn’t get a chance to catch that game, but I did watch the entire Maui Invitational.

DW: What did you think about the team from what you saw in the Maui Invitational?

MS: The team is extremely talented. They have a lot of talented young guys, but I think once it’s all put together I think they can have a good team. I’m looking forward to seeing them improve as the season goes on.

DW: Well, some are worried about the tournament streak after Sunday’s blowout loss to Oklahoma.

MS: Yeah, that’s natural for the fans to be worried, but the team has to block that out and just work on the things that they didn’t do well.

DW: What do you think of the team’s chances of extending the streak to 26?

MS: I think they have a good shot at it with all the talent they have, but it’s just a matter of them consistently keeping everyone on track for every game.

DW: Well, good luck with the rest of the season.

MS: Thank you, and tell everyone in Arizona I said, “”Bear down.””

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