Came down to Gampel today to try to get a gauge on the UConn program. A year ago -- on the first Monday of April -- UConn was on top of the world, beating Butler for its third national title at Houston's Reliant Stadium.
Now, the Huskies are program in disarray. From Houston to "we have a problem" in the span of 12 months.
Caught up with Shabazz Napier before he put up some shots inside an empty Gampel. Napier admits he doesn't necessarily have his finger on the pulse of the program. He says he's usually the last to find out about things, like Alex Oriakhi's impending transfer.
For his part, Napier says he's likely to stick it out at UConn.
"Everyone’s been telling a lot of rumors, they even got to Kemba, about me leaving," he said. "But, my heart is here, I’m always going to be loyal. (But) no one knows about the future.”
There was even some talk about Napier possibly declaring for the NBA draft.
"I don’t think I’m ready to do that," he admitted. "Unless something dramatic happens, I’ll pretty much be in a college uniform.”
Napier doesn't know about Jeremy Lamb's or Andre Drummond's plans, or who else may transfer. But when asked about the program's APR situation that may keep it out of next year's NCAA and Big East tournaments, Napier had plenty to say:
“(An NCAA tourney ban) is going to devastate a lot of people, it’s going to change the reason why we play. It’s difficult to go out there every day and want to play, other than to get the ‘W.’ I just think it’s tough with that. As a sophomore, going into my junior year, the people they’re blaming it on is the class of juniors and seniors. The way it’s been explained to me is that, even though we’re doing the right thing, my class has a GPA, it makes it seem like we’re doing something wrong. For us to be blamed for something like that, we feel it’s not cool at all.”
“If you look at our GPA’s now, they’re super-good, starting from mine to Ryan Boatright … what happened in the past happened, but the staff learned from their mistakes, they have us in study hours and doing a lot of things that they wished they did back then. It seems like, we don’t know what to do now, as sophomores and juniors, because we feel like we did the right thing and they’re saying we did the wrong thing.”
And, of course, UConn would ostensibly be punished twice for its APR failings: the program was docked scholarships back in May.
“On that behalf, losing scholarships, I can understand that, because as a staff, you have to take responsibility for that. But for a team that only has one junior, one person that was in that class – and he was doing well as a freshman – I don’t think you should dock everybody. College basketball is to help kids out like myself, who had it tough growing up, dealt with a lot of stuff. To come up here and play, thorugh the hard times and good times, and then not being able to play in the tournament that everybody wants to play growing up, it’s going to be tough. Hopefully, we get that appeal, and they understand we’re doing as best as we can.”
The young man makes a lot of sense, really. We'll soon find out if the NCAA agrees.
*** Count Niels Giffey as another who won't be abandoning ship. In fact, other than the possibility of Lamb and Drummond going pro, Giffey thinks "everybody's going to stay."
That includes little-used countryman Enosch Wolf, who seemed to be in Jim Calhoun's doghouse for much of the season but who, Giffey believes, has plenty of potential, as long as he's in shape.
”Even though some people were frustrated by the season … I think everybody’s settled down now, and gotten less emotional and more rational," Giffey said.
Labels: Alex Oriakhi, Andre Drummond, Enosch Wolf, Jeremy Lamb, Jim Calhoun, Niels Giffey, Shabazz Napier