Friday, March 28, 2014

Shabazz Napier has Already 'Shabazz-ed' a Georges Niang Team Once Before

A few off-the-beaten-path notes heading into Friday's UConn-Iowa State Sweet 16 game at Madison Square Garden:

As we documented in a story back in December, Shabazz Napier was already Shabazz-ing other opponents long before he enrolled at UConn. He was hitting clutch shots and having big games at Lawrence Academy and at Charlestown High prior to his Husky career.

In fact, in a game against Tilton School as a senior, Napier went for 36 points in an 88-85 overtime win on the road. One of Tilton's star players? Georges Niang.

Yes, we know Niang won't be playing for Iowa State tonight, but just found that interesting.

*** Kemba Walker had a lot of interesting things to say about this year's UConn team in this New York Post story the other day. One thing I'm not sure I'd heard before was the following:

Walker recalled how Jim Calhoun raged at Napier at halftime of the NCAA championship against Butler.

“We weren’t playing so great, and Coach Calhoun kind of got into Shabazz a little bit, and the way he came out in that second half and responded, it was a cool thing to watch. Coach Calhoun, during that time, he hadn’t really got into anyone the way he got into Shabazz that day, and it was kind of cool to see how Shabazz reacted. He didn’t get down, he got better. He sparked us in that second half, and that was why we were able to go on and win that championship game.”

I didn't get a chance to ask Shabazz about that yesterday, as he was too busy answering the same questions, over and over, from national and New York media about staying with the UConn program, playing at the Garden, etc., etc. But I did ask Tyler Olander if he recalled the halftime outburst by Calhoun at Shabazz, and here's what he had to say:

"I remember him laying into a couple of guys. I don't remember him specifically singling out anyone, but he said a couple of guys really need to step it up if we're going to win this game. I think Shabazz and Jeremy (Lamb) knew he was talking to them, they've got to step it up, take a little pressure off Kemba so he'd be able to create and they can get involved in the flow of the game."

"(Calhoun) was in there, throwing markers and all that stuff. We were like, 'Hey,' I thought we were doing decent, we're winning the game, doing alright. That's just Coach Calhoun. That wasn't enough. We had to dominate, we could do better."

*** Wouldn't it be amazing if, somehow, Omar Calhoun were to make some sort of big contribution for UConn on Friday, right here in his hometown of New York? Especially after this most disappointing sophomore season? Calhoun tells me his future is at UConn. We shall see.

*** No doubt, there will be no shortage of New York City bars where Husky fans can congregate for Friday's game. There's even a UConn pre-game pep rally from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Affinia Manhattan Ballroom on 371 7th Ave. (31st and 7th, just a block from the Garden).

There'll even be a Husky Hangout/Game Watch on Saturday at The Thirsty Fan on 254 W. 31st St., across from the Garden, for those who want to watch the UConn women's game against BYU.

And, against all odds, there's apparently an Iowa State bar in NYC, too:

Who knew?

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