Young players on the fringe of making the NBA typically face a tough decision: Take the money in Europe or maximize your exposure by playing NBA style basketball in front of NBA personnel in the D-League.

Mustafa Shakur did both, and now he may have his best chance yet to make the NBA with the New Orleans Hornets.

Along the way of a career that has meandered through Poland, Spain, Greece and Oklahoma, Shakur has particularly improved as a shooter, averaging 19.2 points and 6.2 assists for Tulsa in the D-League last season.

He has also attended NBA camps with Sacramento and Minnesota, making the Kings for a day in 2007 before Sacramento cut him and going to camp with the Timberwolves last season.

"I think I made a lot" of improvements, Shakur said today on a phone interview from Louisiana. "My senior year in college I started to get my confidence back but it wasn't always there. My first year in Poland, I started to regain my confidence because you really have to shoot when you get an open shot there.

"I would say I was very confident in playmaking and in running the show but now I can also take the open shot," Shakur said. "Before I didn't want to hurt the team."

Shakur entered UA in 2003 as a McDonalds All-American - as was Chris Paul, whom Shakur is now vying to serve as a backup point guard for - and faced high expectations from the moment he took the ball for the Wildcats as a freshman. But he said the pressure wasn't a problem for his confidence.

"I really didn't think about it," Shakur said. "The expectation for everybody was to win a championship. All four years we had respectable years but not for the expectations of Arizona. You really can't fall short of that. It's not like at other schools."


Greg Byrne beat the drums in Yuma.


UNLV's Tre'Von Willis will miss at least three games this season after a plea bargain agreement stemming from a felony domestic battery charge. Willis dropped 25 points on UA in the Rebels' overtime win at McKale Center last season.



Sportswriter for the Arizona Daily Star covering Arizona Wildcats basketball