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By: Raj Sagar, Virginia Athletic Media Relations

At the center of University Park, a suburb about thirty minutes outside Chicago, lies the single most important place in the lives of countless adolescent males. The neighborhood basketball courts serve as a social institution, a place of competition, and perhaps most importantly, a facilitator of development. Adhering to the typical two-court format, Craig Park was divided by physicality, skill level, and overall intensity of play. Middle school boys spend years playing on the side court’ before their physical development and basketball skill allows them to ascend into manhood, and move onto the main court.

For most young men, the mere thought of playing on the prime time floor seems like a distant dream hidden behind countless hours of dedication and hard work. Things were different for Mustapha Farrakhan he embraced the cycle of development and maturation.

“When we were younger, all my friends and I always looked to get into games on the main court, but we were just too small,” said Farrakhan. “Some nights I would get cars parked facing the court with headlights to get a few extra games in. Getting better and moving up was always the goal.”

Through his early high school years, Farrakhan honed a smooth jump shot and developed blazing speed that did take him onto the main court and much further. As a junior at Thornton Township High School, Farrakhan’s basketball career took off. Averaging 17.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists, Farrakhan’s season culminated in the one of the highest basketball honors in Illinois. Taking advantage of a rare opportunity, Farrakhan was invited to join a number of heralded talents from around the country such as Hassan Adams, Ronald Steele, Acie Law, OJ Mayo, and Glen Davis as counselors at Michael Jordan’s basketball camp for young children. Farrakhan’s experience was especially unique in that Jordan was his coach during the nightly games between the counselors.

“Whenever I was around Michael, I really tried to soak in everything he had to say about the game,” said Farrakhan. “I learned a lot about how to feel comfortable on the floor as a scorer. He taught me things about the mentality of a shooter, and how to get the ball in places on the floor that I could be effective from. I was able to mature as a basketball player, and during that summer I felt that both my game developed a great deal.”

The next season, Farrakhan did in fact feel more comfortable on the floor as he saw his scoring average jump to 20.3 as a senior. Farrakhan led the SICA-east district in scoring, and three point percentage, and finished second in assists and steals. He was named the 2007 Daily Southtown Player of the Year and was selected 2007 Illinois Basketball Coaches Association first-team All-State.

“Senior year I really felt comfortable on the floor,” said Farrakhan. “I felt like I could score in a variety of ways, and was able to become an aggressive scorer. I had come a long way both physically and mentally, and it all came together for me as a senior.”

Upon choosing to attend the University of Virginia over the University of Illinois, Farrakhan set his sights on what it would take time to adjust to the speed and pace of the game at the collegiate level. From the start, something that was his strength in high school, his speed, was tested by Sean Singletary, arguably the quickest ball handler in the country.

“Both the speed of the game, and the stamina it takes to compete at this level can be a shock for a younger player,” said Farrakhan. “This offseason I spent a lot of time on my conditioning, and hopefully has allowed me to execute at a higher level this season.”

Farrakhan has certainly performed at a higher level this season. Through 14 games this season, he is averaging 5.9 points per game, five higher than his rookie season. At Virginia Tech, Farrakhan scored a career-high 17 points, matching his point total for his entire freshman season. He has scored in double figures in three of the Cavaliers’ first four ACC games.

“Mustapha’s really come a long way, especially mentally,” said coach Dave Leitao. “Adjusting to college young people get emotional, especially when they don’t do things as well as they expect to and they get down on themselves. Mentally I think he’s made a lot of positive strides. Physically, it’s just getting stronger. He’s one year older, one year faster, all of the things that happen naturally to guys from a physical standpoint.”

Farrakhan has been aided by the fact that his two best friends have been going through the growing pains of the diaper dandy’ with him.

“Mike [Scott], Jeff [Jones], and I are always together,” says Farrakhan. “On and off the basketball court, we are looking out for each other. We go bowling, go to the movies, hang out on the weekends, play video games, and eat together. That really adds to a sense of chemistry on the floor. Our relationship allows us to take criticism from one another, and make each other better as individuals, and within the team.”

Adjusting, adapting, maturing, and developing in relation to one’s surroundings is undoubtedly an invaluable asset on the basketball court, and if history does in fact repeat itself, Virginia basketball fans can continue to expect good things from Mustapha Farrakhan.

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