Friday, April 2, 2010

What Napier's Coach Thinks

Just spoke with Lawrence Academy coach Kevin Wiercinski about new UConn commit Shabazz Napier. Here's some of what he had to say:

"He’s a good kid and an exciting player, that’s for sure. He's probably one of the more dynamic point guards around. He's exciting athletically: as quick as they come, handles the ball real well, right hand/left hand, and he's a very good shooter with excellent range. He makes all the open ones and the tough ones, too. He's got a real ability to warm up in a hurry. And he's such a great penetrator ... He's really dynamic on the offensive end, and you add that to how instinctual he is, his anticipation is off the charts, and he's a real gamer. When the chips are down, he doesn't shy away from that stuff at all."

Wiercinski said Nabazz averaged 21 points, just under six assists, just under four rebounds and 4.5 steals per game this season. I've seen him listed anywhere from 5-foot-10 to 6-1, and the official word from Wiercinski is he's "approaching 6 feet. He's all of 5-11, at least ... he's slight, about 160, 165 pounds."

At that size, can he step in right away and contribute for the Huskies?

"I think so, the way he can shoot it. At worst, he's a guy who can handle ball, get you into your offense, push the tempo, those type of things. Whether he's going to be able to score on penetration at that level remains to be seen. In the halfcourt, it's going to be more difficult for him with all the trees in the middle at the Big East level."

Shabazz is a Boston kid who attended Charlestown High for three years and Lawrence Academy for two. He's listed as a junior, but Lawrence is going through the process of reclassifying him so that he can graduate in June. It looks like all but a sure thing.

"We've still got some things to work thorugh on our end," Wiercinski said. "Coming out of Charlestown, being as young as he was anyway, he was needing a lot of attention at that point and we backed him up. He's a very capable student. He struggled at Charlestown for a variety of reasons, he came to us and seemed to do well."

Shabazz is fine with his core courses as it stands now, but a potential change in the NCAA clearinghouse standards that could come within the next week or two might change that. With that in mind, the school is trying to graduate Shabazz this June while he's still eligible under the current standards.

"We need to make a formal proposal to the department chair's committee," Wiercinski said. "Knowing this may be something that was going to be on the horizon, we're going to our internal academic people to get the stamp of approval so he can graduate in June. It's really just the formality of it all."

UConn's scholarship offer would stand for next year, too, but Wiercinzki is all but positive that Shabazz will be in Storrs this fall.

Shabazz, who made an unofficial visit to UConn on Feb. 28 to see the Louisville game, was also courted by several other "New England schools," per Wiercinski. But UConn was the only one he truly considered.

"When he looks at Coach Calhoun, the school, the league, the guys on the roster they’ve got, their tradition, all of it – he looks at it like anyone would, 'What an oppotunity, I'm excited.' Given the year UConn had, he's tickled by the fact that he thinks, coach thinks he’s a guy that can come in (and help the team) go from struggling, to being a guy to help them get back to where UConn is so used to being."

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