Shabazz Napier and Kemba Walker are going to be teammates in the NBA.
I know, I know, it's not happening. I just wanted to see what it would look like in writing. Because for a fleeting moment, it looked like this might be the case.
After watching everyone in the NBA Draft green room get picked before him, Shabazz Napier was selected 24th overall by the Charlotte Hornets. Watch out NBA, you're about to see what happens when you disrespect a hungry Husky. Beat writers are reporting that he will actually end up being traded to the Miami Heat. There were rumors leading up to the draft that the Heat were looking to trade up to get him, and LeBron James demonstrated favor towards him during the NCAA Tournament, so this is not a huge surprise.
My favorite player in the draft! #Napier— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 27, 2014
In the days leading up to the draft, Shabazz Napier's draft stock enjoyed a steady climb. Considering where it was in February of this year, you could describe his ascent as meteoric. There was a chance he could have been picked in the early teens but ultimately he ended up going off the board right around where the mock draft consensus had him going.
For you Heat/NBA fans who may be here to read about the newest member of your favorite team, I've collaborated with Matt Ouimette to give you the spark notes on Napier. Matt is a four year veteran of the UConn Athletic Department, where he served as a video assistant for the Men's Basketball team.
1. How is he perceived by the fanbase?
Matt: Shabazz will go down as the second most loved Husky of all time, behind Kemba Walker. Students absolutely love him for his refusal to back down, fiesty defense and desire to win. If Kemba hadn't done what he did, Shabazz may have been the most popular Husky of all time.
Aman: You can make the argument that Shabazz was the most important, if not also the best, player to ever put on a Husky jersey. His commitment to his team and the program when we were banned from the NCAA Tournament speak loudly to the quality of his character. He is universally loved by the fanbase even though he was a little impulsive on the court. He'll take a semi-contested three with 15 seconds on the shot clock but the thing is he'll drain it too.
2. What anecdote or story best typifies his time at UConn?
Matt: During the 2012 season, during the NJ roadtrip (Seton Hall/Rutgers), we were struggling as a team. A lot of the blame was placed on Shabazz. Instead of shutting down he was the first one out before the Rutgers game to take extra shots with Coach Ollie. We lost the game but the story is a testament to the type of kid Shabazz is. Even during the rough times he never stopped working.
Aman: As a freshman in the 2011 Final Four (we won the NCAA Tournament that year too) Shabazz committed a turnover with UConn up two and 16 seconds left in the game. Instead of sulking he grabbed the rebound off the Kentucky miss and calmly hit two free throws with a second left to send UConn to the Final, which we won-- hey did I mention we're four time National Champions?
Actually, on second thought the real answer is this:
(fast forward to 1:34)
3. What parts of the draft evaluation coverage about him do you think is wrong or missing?
Matt: There is too much emphasis placed on his size. I don't care how small Shabazz is, he is a winner. Winners will win regardless of size.
Aman: His Sam Cassell-sized balls
4. What will we love and/or hate about him?
Matt: Fans will love his passion to win and ability to make all the little hustle plays most NBA players don't. They may hate his inconsistency at first but they will quickly forget when he picks the opposing guards pocket then buries a deep 3.
Aman: Nothing but love here. Shabazz is a great teammate, elite free throw shooter, candid interviewee, respected leader and an extremely clever creator with the ball. Sometimes he makes you throw your hands in the air and ask, "why did he do that?" but more often than not you will be amazed by his vision and poise.
5. Anything else you want to share?
Matt: I can't say enough about the maturation of Shabazz Napier. Coming in freshman year he was one of the most immature people I had ever met. By his senior year it was a complete 180. He had the unquestioned respect of the team and coaches. I have no doubt he will have a successful career at the next level.
Aman: You can't not love Shabazz Napier. You should be thrilled that he's on your team.