Wednesday, December 4, 2013

When Shabazz Napier Committed to UConn, He Was Known as a "Real Gamer." Guess So.

I always find it fun to look back and see what was being said about UConn players back when they were being recruited or had just committed to the Husky program.

And with Shabazz Napier finally starting to generate the national buzz that he deserved last season, what better time to hark back to the blog files on when Napier first became a Husky.

*** Napier made his unofficial visit to UConn on Feb. 28, 2010, taking in the Huskies' 78-76 loss to Louisville at Gampel. Josh Selby was slated to visit that day, too, but had "car trouble." Later, after committing to Kansas, Selby was found to have received improper benefits and was suspended the first nine games of the 2010-11 season.

*** Napier committed to UConn on April 2, 2010. West Virginia, Florida, Miami and Memphis were among the other schools offering him scholarships. He was listed as Class of 2011 at the time, and he was attending Lawrence Academy. The hope was that he would be able to re-classify, however, and he did so after transferring back to Charlestown High (where he spent his first three years) late in the school year and graduating from there.

I found out later that day that Napier had, indeed, re-classified to 2010. It's funny, reading the comments on my blog from that day (back in the days before Twitter, when people still commented on my blog), there was so much concern that signing Napier meant the Huskies were going to miss out on Brandon Knight, Cory Joseph and Selby, among others.

All three wound up as one-and-dones, and none of them have an NCAA championship ring.

*** Kevin Wiercinski, Napier's coach at Lawrence Academy, had a lot of good things to say about him at the time of his commitment. A couple of quotes stand out:

"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."

Some things never change.

*** I thought this post, linked to my blog at around the time of Napier's commitment, was very telling: "Napier eventually would nail 11 threes, and looked the part of a big time player. Most of Napier's shots were created by himself, and he was even well defended, but still there was nothing that could have been done."

*** Napier held a press conference to sign his national letter-of-intent on April 22, 2010, up at the Tobin Community Center in Boston's Mission Hill section. Me and the J-I's (then Connecticut Post's) Neill Ostrout went up for it, and I posted this blog entry (I really wish the video was still working. And no, the link doesn't work anymore, either.)

Anyway, it was obvious from the start that Napier didn't lack for confidence.

My favorite quote that day, after Napier was asked about being able to play with Kemba Walker for a season:

“He’s a great player. He’s fast, I’m fast. We’ve played against each other, it’s hard. I think it’s going to be good, because he can teach me some certain things, and I guess I can teach him how to shoot better.”

Hey, guess it worked, no?

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