Tag:Shabazz Napier
Posted on: November 26, 2011 6:02 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2011 7:23 pm

UConn wins with new/fun backcourt

By Gary Parrish

They were sloppy at times -- full of questionable decisions and questionable shots. That'll have to improve. And it will. And when it does, watch out. Because after watching Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright play together for the first time (that's Boatright jumping over Napier at UConn's First Night this year) in the fourth-ranked Connecticut's 78-76 overtime win over No. 22 Florida State on Saturday, I'm pretty sure I'm ready to call the tiny playmakers the nation's most entertaining backcourt. What they lacked in composure they made up for with excitement. What they lack in experience they'll gain soon enough.

Napier spent the afternoon bombing away.

He hit six of 13 3-point attempts.

Boatright was crossing anybody and everybody.

He slashed into the lane almost at will.

They took turns playing with the ball and off the ball.

Both seemed mostly comfortable in either role.

Napier finished with 26 points and Boatright got 14 -- none of which were bigger than the three that came via free throws with 7.3 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the score and force overtime. It was the freshman's Darius Washington-moment, and he passed it with ease. These stakes were different than those stakes, sure; a bid to the NCAA tournament wasn't in the balance. This is November, not March. But it was still a pressure-packed moment considering this was a game featuring two ranked schools on national television, and Boatright handled it well.

"I was just thinking about winning," Boatright told CBSSports.com by phone. "I knew I had to make them."

Which is precisely what he did.

That it came in his college debut only made it more impressive.

Boatright, as you know, was caught accepting extra benefits from his summer coach before enrolling in college. The NCAA suspended him for six games. That forced him to miss UConn's first five ... plus Friday's loss to unranked UCF.

"It was tough sitting out," Boatright said. "No way to describe the feeling. Watching made me sick to my stomach."

But he won't have to watch anymore.

And he's going to make the Huskies a bigger problem than they otherwise would be in the Big East, because now Jim Calhoun has two dynamic ball-handlers to go with an All-American wing (Jeremy Lamb) and a pro big (Andre Drummond). Sprinkle in the pieces that are Alex Oriakhi, Tyler Olander, DeAndre Daniels and Roscoe Smith, and forget about how the Huskies look now. Think ahead to March and how they could look then.

It's scary.

The pieces are in place to compete for another title.

"We just got that last piece," Lamb told CBSSports.com by phone. "Boatright was great today. He gives us another ball-handler. So I don't know how long it's gonna take, but I think we'll get there. I think we're gonna get there."

Photo: AP
Posted on: November 20, 2011 6:40 pm

UConn's Shabazz Napier with triple-double

By Jeff Goodman

It was just the ninth triple-double in UConn history.

No, it wasn't Jeremy Lamb. It wasn't Andre Drummond, either.

It was sophomore point guard Shabazz Napier.

As I've said over and over - and Huskies coach Jim Calhoun has also stated: Napier is the key to the Huskies.

While veteran big man Alex Oriakhi is struggling and freshman Andre Drummond has been consistent, a bright spot thus far has been the emergence of Napier.

I'd like to say I'm surprised, but I'm not. I had him near the top of my list of Breakout Guys for this season.

Napier, despite not shooting it well a year ago, is a terrific shooter. He's also one of the top defensive guards in the country. And now he's starting to learn how to run a team.

Napier finished the win over Coppin State with 22 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds -- with just a lone turnover. Through the first four games, he's averaging 18 points, 6.2 assists, 6 rebounds and 2.2 turnovers per game.

He said the guy he watched in the summer at the camps he attended was Pittsburgh's Ashton Gibbs.

"I know he's looked at as a scoring guard," Napier said after the win. "One thing he does so well is get everyone involved and also know when to score."

Napier also spoke about his new haircut - which he refers to as a "rat tail." He said he has it in honor of a friend, Ernest Likely, who was killed last season.

"It's a Boston thing," Napier said. "He came to a lot of my games."

"I'm thinking of cutting it," he added. "I've got the barber coming tonight and I need a haircut. I'm not sure yet."

If I was Napier, I wouldn't change much. The new floor game - and rat tail - seem to be working for him.
Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:18 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2011 3:37 pm

Calhoun knows Napier is the key for UConn

By Jeff Goodman

Everyone can talk all they want about Jeremy Lamb, how he's primed for a mammoth season in which some even have pegged him as a Preseason First Team All-American.

They can talk about the new guy, talented freshman Andre Drummond - who could well become a lottery pick after this season.

They can talk about veteran big man Alex Oriakhi and how if he becomes consistent, this UConn team could go back-to-back.

But none hold more to the Huskies success this season than Shabazz Napier.

And it's got nothing to do with the fact that backup point guard Ryan Boatright is still dealing with NCAA eligibility issues, either.

With or without Boatright in the fold, Napier is the most important man in Storrs, Conn., this season - and one of the most important in all of college hoops.

"Shabazz is the key to UConn," Huskies coach Jim Calhoun admitted to CBSSports.com.

Napier was the guy who played alongside Kemba Walker a year ago. He was a relentless defender who brought toughness to the table. Now he'll be asked to run the show.

Thus far, in two exhibition games, Napier has dished out 28 assists and committed just four turnovers.

"He was better running the team in the games than he's been in practice," Calhoun said.

Some question Napier's ability to shoot the ball - after he shot just 37 percent overall and 33 percent from long distance as a freshman.

"I'm not worried about that at all," Calhoun said.

Two things that Napier can do: Guard and shoot the ball.

Running the team will be the key for the Huskies, though.

Photo: AP
Posted on: September 2, 2011 11:37 am

Alex Oriakhi was blindsided by Drummond news

By Jeff Goodman

The bombshell that Andre Drummond dropped exactly one week ago caught everyone by surprise.

Even his new frontcourt mate, Alex Oriakhi.

"I was shocked," Oriakhi admitted. "I didn't think he was coming."

But Oriakhi received a call on Friday evening from Drummond in search of UConn coach Jim Calhoun's number, saying he wanted to commit for this year.

"It was crazy," Oriakhi said.

Now the speculation will begin with how Oriaki and Drummond can co-exist. However, what people fail to realize is Oriakhi is about as team-oriented a kid as you will find.

"It doesn't bother me at all that he's coming," Oriakhi said. "I want to win another championship. That's what's important to me."

"I know I'm going to get the ball in the post," he added. "The addition of Andre isn't going to hurt me; it'll help me."

Oriakhi expects that both he and Drummond will get the opportunity to step out and expand their game on the perimeter. But that'll be the interesting scenario to watch - whether teams respect either or just pack it in, dare them to make shots and congest the middle.

- Oriakhi said he's been impressed with freshman DeAndre Daniels' ability to shoot the ball. "He's athletic and can defend," Oriakhi said. He said that Daniels and sophomore forward Roscoe Smith are similar players - with the primary difference being versatility and that Smith is stronger and also be play some power forward.

- Oriakhi also admitted that the key to this year's team is Shabazz Napier, who will likely become the full-time point guard with the departure of Kemba Walker. "He's our general," Oriakhi said. "As he goes, we go. He's ready - especially after a year of learning and talking to Kemba." Oriakhi also laughs when people question Napier's shooting ability. "That's crazy," he said.
Posted on: April 4, 2011 10:33 am
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