Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Special Senior Night for Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander

Notes, quotes and video from UConn's Senior Night win over Rutgers, a night where Shabazz Napier (career-high seven 3-pointers), Niels Giffey (career-high 16 points) and even Tyler Olander saved their best for last:


(on fourth-year seniors Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander)

“I thank them for providing this program with loyalty and faith. They could have left, they could have transferred, they could have done a lot of things. But they said, ‘We’re gonna stay through the tough times and get back to where we long.’ They kept this program alive, and I owe them a lot. I can never repay them for what they gave me. The chance to coach them has just been a blessing.”

(Napier had a career-high seven 3-pointers, Giffey a career-high 16 points, and Olander hit a couple of key second-half baskets)

“To save their best for last is great. Those kids are going to be terrific outside of basketball, because their minds and hearts are selfless, their vision and attention to detail every day – not just on the basketball court but off the basketball court – being ambassadors for this great university is terrific. I thank them for the opportunity to coach them.”

“I’ll take 24-6 going to Louisville.”

(on Napier's improved leadership over the years)

“In the beginning, he learned from Kemba. I think it was a lot of pressure on him his sophomore year, we won a national championship, we’re supposed to have this talented team. I don’t think he understood what really a leader was supposed to be. I think he just learned from that. Sometimes, you learn through adversity. It builds character … he showed his weakness and vulnerability that (he doesn’t) know it all and (he needs) you to help (him) out at times.”

“There’s a lot of pressure – school, you’re supposed to be in the NBA, people back home. For him to handle it like he’s done his senior year has just been remarkable. I tip my hat to him.”

(on starting the three seniors and grad student Lasan Kromah)

“That’s what I do. That’s just my tradition.”

(on promising crowd the team would be back at Gampel in April, celebrating a national title)

“I have confidence in my guys, that we’re going to win every game. If you don’t believe it, you’re never gonna have anything. When I came here as a coach, I believed in myself and my coaching staff, no matter what the situation was. We’ve got a chance, like 68 other teams. So, why not think it? That’s the only way you’re going to get a blessing, if you think and have faith. I believe we’re gonna be back here. I’m gonna say it. I’m not gonna say we’re going to lose. I believe that we’re going to win the national championship, I believe we’re going to win the next game against Louisville. I’ve just got faith in my team, I don’t know what else you want me to say.”

“It was emotional (in the locker room). We had all the seniors speak. I didn’t have any keys tonight. My keys were my seniors. Every player that’s not a senior honored the seniors and honor this program, and then for the seniors to honor each other and honor this program. Those were the keys. If we play the right way, we’re going to be in games. Hopefully, we’ll be the last team standing.”

(on Ryan Boatright, who played just 20 minutes off the bench, scoring just six points)

“I keep telling you guys, I coach by feel. I don’t have a set. Other coaches might, but I don’t. If you’re not playing the right way – Ryan was playing the right way, but I thought other matchups were there for us tonight.”


“I wouldn’t say it was tough, because you were so motivated, you’ve just got to understand that this is another game that you need to win. We had our families out there, but you’ve got to put that to the side a little bit and play the game.”


“It was a special moment to have my family walk along side of me. The fans and everybody cheering me on, I know it was definitely something special to my mother. To see a lot of people doing that to your son, it definitely brings a lot of tears and a lot of emotions to you.”

“I definitely was upset I missed that free throw. There it goes again, my last shot. I’m definitely upset I missed the last free throw, but that’s just how I am. I’m not celebrating much, because I always know that there’s something higher in the future."

“I didn’t think too much about anything, besides playing Rutgers. My mind was focused on playing Rutgers. I thought about it with the fellas a couple of days ago. We were just sitting and talking, just remembering all the funny days and funny times we had with our former teammates.”

(on his strange foul, which appeared intentional, on Myles Mack with 3:36 left to play)

“I was just going for the ball and I was in a bad situation. I had to foul him. Either that or he’s gonna get by me.”

(on a reported dust-up between he and Boatright in the ensuing huddle)

“Nah. We want to win the game and we weren’t stepping on (Rutgers’) throat the right way. It was nothing.”


(on his mom nearly crying in pregame ceremonies)

“I’m surprised she didn’t, to be honest. The women on her side of the family usually lose it in those situations, so I’m surprised she didn’t.”

“We all played well. Shabazz did what he always does. Niels could’ve had, like, 30 if he made all his shots, still had a great game. Couldn’t ask it to go any other way.”

*** Class of 2017 point guard Tremont Waters of New Haven, one of the top prospects in his class in the nation, was at the game. Waters plays at South Kent Prep.

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