Saturday, August 4, 2012

Shabazz Napier Still in Boot; Kemba Just Wants to Win

Here are some notes 'n quotes from Saturday's Mohegan Sun/Jim Calhoun Charity Classic:

Kemba Walker is one of the most celebrated winners in UConn basketball history. The run to the 2011 Big East and national championships is proof of that.

So imagine how it killed him as a rookie this season with the Charlotte Bobcats, who had an all-time worst record of 7-59.

“Of course (it did),” he said Saturday, prior to the Mohegan Sun/Jim Calhoun Charity All-Star Game. He added that his goal for the team in the future is “winning, that’s it. I just want to win.”

Adding another national champion (2012 No. draft pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) to the mix can only help, Walker figures.

“But it takes more than just me and him,” he noted. “As long as (we)can try to bring that winning culture to the team, it’ll help a lot.”

Walker was a winner again on Saturday, scoring 38 points to lead the White Team to a sudden-death overtime (seriously), 109-107 victory over the Blue Team. In an interesting twist, however, Walker had two chances to give his team the win and came up short both times.

At the end of regulation, he put up a 16-footer (similar to his famous game-winner against Pitt in the 2011 Big East tournament) but had it blocked by Rudy Gay.

In OT, Walker made some terrific crossovers and put up a similar shot with Jeremy Lamb guarding him. The shot was an air ball.

The White Team won thanks to Jerome Dyson’s steal and layup.

*** Shabazz Napier is still in a walking boot after fracturing the pinky toe on his right foot a few months ago, but he’s 100-percent confident that he’ll be ready to go once practice starts in mid-October.

Napier said he’s due to get the boot off in 2 ½-3 weeks, and hopefully begin basketball activities shortly after that.

Jim Calhoun has mentioned that Napier will likely play off the ball more this season, allowing Ryan Boatright to control the point. That’s fine with Napier.

“In high school I was more of a combo guard,” he noted. “When I came to college, I realized I had more potential being a pro point guard. If I was blessed enough to make it to the NBA, that’s what I’d be. But, I’m willing to do anything coach wants me to do. Whatever he wants me to do, I’ll do it – whether it be running in the rain at (midnight), I’ll do it.”

He’ll be asked to score more this season.

“I started scoring well at the beginning of the season, but then I allowed a lot of things that were going on with the team to get in my head,” Napier noted.

What type of things?

“Things that were going on throughout the whole season, whether it be inside or outside. Sometimes as a young athlete, you let things get to your head. I learned from my mistakes.”

*** UConn is expected to have several recruits come in on official visits this week. One of them is Kentan Facey, a 6-foot-9 Class of 2013 power forward out of Long Island Lutheran High.

Per NCAA rules, UConn could not have any recruiting visitors at Saturday's game. If any came, it was on their own accord.

*** Hasheem Thabeet recently signed with the defending NBA Western Confernece champion Oklahoma City Thunder.

“It’s another opportunity for me,” he said. “I just have to put in the work.”

*** Stanley “Sticks” Robinson was at the game, but didn’t play due to a torn left Achilles tendon he suffered in March while playing for the Iowa Energy of the NBA developmental league.

*** Donnell Beverly, a 2011 graduate, played in China last year.

*** The announced attendance was 7,241.

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