Jamal Abu-Shamala wishes every game could be against Northwestern. The occasional starter and moderately used reserve who has averaged about five points per game has found a way to excel against the Wildcats. During his Freshman year, he scored 15 points on 4-4 three point shooting. The following year he scored 17 points on 5-8 three point shooting. Last year, he scored another 16 points on 5-8 shooting. However, against most other teams, he rarely takes shots, and is far from the most effective player on the court.
Why you ask? It has nothing to do with playing teams that wear purple or eating some deep dish pizza before the game, and has everything to do with Northwestern’s general lack of athleticism. Abu-Shamala, who is not particularly athletic himself, has regularly been able to find open shots on the offensive end, and has generally been able to capitalize.
Although he didn’t always show it last year, Abu-Shamala is one of the better shooters in the conference. He made 47.5% of his three point shots his freshman year and 43% his sophomore year. Given the opportunity to shoot an open shot, more often than not he will make it. Last year, as the Gophers often struggled to pull down offensive rebounds and were unable to penetrate in the lane, Abu-Shamala often looked lost.
Like Travis Busch and Kevin Payton, Jamal Abu-Shamala is very one dimensional. However, there is room for his one dimension.
What we like
Four years ago, no one would have believed you if you predicted that Jamal Abu-Shamala would end his career as a scholarship player, especially after a coaching change. Even Tubby Smith acknowledged the impact that Abu-Shamala has had. Whether it is making open shots or taking charges that result in bloody noses, Abu-Shamala follows rule #1 of being a bench player: first do no harm.
What needs to improve
There is a lot of thing Jamal Abu-Shamala could do better. He could be faster and stronger. He could play better defense and jump higher. After three years though, we all know those things won’t happen, and it would be unfair to expect them to. What Abu-Shamala can do is get his shooting percentage back up. Last year was the worst shooting year of his career, making only 34% from behind the three point line and 37% from the field. The two previous years he shot three pointers better than two pointer. If he could get back to his career averages, it will make every one on the court better. And no one would complain if he created his own shot once in a while.
What to expect
Every team needs a shooter, or two. With the addition Devron Bostick, Paul Carter, and Devoe Joseph and the continued development of Lawrence Westbrook and Al Nolen, there should be many more opportunities for Abu-Shamala getting kick-out passes from penetrating guards. Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III should also be able to create many more opportunities with what we can only hope will be more offensive rebounds. Coupled with what should be more confidence after a very successful summer, expect Jamal Abu-Shamala to have a career year, that is, if he finds playing time. He won’t create his own shot. He won’t beat anyone off the dribble. But he will be more open, more often than last year, and his numbers should reflect that.