Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mustafa Shakur's return to Tulsa

It was a strange sight on Sunday night inside the Tulsa Convention Center. Mustafa Shakur ... in red ... running the other team's offense against the Tulsa 66ers.

During Tulsa's magical playoff run last season, Shakur ran the offense to precision from his point guard position. On Sunday night, Tulsa fans saw Shakur once again work his magic, but this time for the other team in Rio Grande Valley's 117-105 decision over the 66ers.

Shakur finished with a typical "Mustafa line" ... 17 points, six rebounds, six assists.

"We're fortunate to have him," said Rio Grande Valley head coach Chris Finch. "He does a lot of things for us and, once we get our team settled around him, I think he's going to be able to do even more. He has a great chance to crack through to the next level."

Shakur was called up by the Oklahoma City Thunder last season after scoring 19.2 points and dishing out 6.9 assists per game. After this year's D-League draft, Shakur was traded to the Vipers in exchange for Robert Vaden, who was selected by Rio Grande Valley in the first round of the draft.

"It wasn't a complete shock when I heard I was traded," Shakur said after Sunday night's game. "Once it happened, it hit me that I was really going to have to start all over. I knew I had to go to a new place and learn a new system."

And how did it feel to go to one of Tulsa's D-League rivals?

"Ironic," Shakur smiled. "But it's been a blessing. I've played for two teams where the NBA franchises are very involved in the teams."

Shakur described Sunday night's game as "bittersweet," knowing he'd be playing against his former coach (Nate Tibbetts) and former teammates Larry Owens, Latavious Williams, Marcus Lewis, and Zabian Dowdell.

"It was a bittersweet night," Shakur said. "I'm glad we got the win, but it was playing against an organization that has done so much for me."

It was also a different kind of night for Tibbetts, watching his former point guard drive, dish, and score like he did so many nights last year inside the Tulsa Convention Center.

"He's a great guy and a great person and we certainly wish him nothing but the best," Tibbetts said.

As for Shakur's future, he believes being a leader will be the key to advancing to the NBA.

"I know I have to work on my leadership and continue to lead the young guys," the former Arizona guard said. "I also have to show some more continuity in my game."

Shakur was one more game against his former team this season, with the Vipers scheduled to return to Tulsa on March 26.

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