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Shabazz Napier comments on UConn's leadership void

David Borges has a great post up over at his blog that mostly lets Shabazz Napier tell the story of what's wrong with the team right now, I'm going to quote liberally from it since it's mostly player quotes, but Borges does have some good insights so go check it out.

Now, the quotes. First, here's Jim Calhoun on leadership:

"There's not a lack of it," he responded, curtly. "There's none."

And now, the worrisome part. Here's Shabazz Napier:

"I took it a little personally, but I understand what he's saying.

"I try to tell the guys, I feel as if I'm their best leader. Sometimes they give me a chance, sometimes they don't," Napier continued. "That's just how it is. It's just basketball, I guess. Losing like this, I'm not here to ... be the captain because it gives you an ego boost. I'm here to win games. I hate losing games as much as anybody in the world. I try my best to be a leader, even though guys don't give me a chance to be that person. It shows in the game, I can't lie. When we have a tipped ball and big guys get the ball and I'm yelling for the ball back out, we've got a new shot clock and they go back up ... that shows I'm not that much of a leader. When a play starts breaking down and I'm yelling, ‘Bring it out, bring it out,' and Boat or Jeremy takes a shot, that just shows that I'm not a leader. It sucks, because we lose games like that. But I try my best. I'm just a human being, I try to do my best in helping my teammates out. If they don't want me to do it, that's on them, but I'm still going to be scratching and trying to do it, because I hate losing. That's the worst thing ever.

"I'm not saying (some players) have their own agenda, I just feel they don't understand what's going on. I feel as though I'm the closest to Coach. I feel as though I understand what Coach is thinking about. I understand how to play along with Coach, because I'm the point guard, so I have to be the coach on the court. Sometimes the guys don't listen to me. It sucks, but hopefully this practice on Sunday and this game on Monday go well, because I don't understand why we're losing games. I feel we have one of the best teams in the country. You keep on losing games, you're selling yourself short."

Napier said he addressed the team in the locker room after the game, before Calhoun came in.

"I just was really focused on what we did last year as a group. I told them our problem, some players only have one identity. You score a lot in the previous game, you come to this game with that same identity. I told the guys, each game is different, you have differnet roles. You have to transform into that differnet role during the game. You score 30 points one game and come back, you're not going to score 30 points the next game ... these guys don't understand that, they think if they score 30, they're going to score 30 the next game. Or if you get 20 rebounds, they're going to get 20 rebounds the next game. Once you have that one identity, you're not as good as a team any more."

That quote, more than anything else, shows the difference between this year and last. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at last year's squad and then this year's squad and say "man they'd be better if they had Kemba Walker," but man they'd be better if they had Kemba Walker. It feels incredibly inappropriate to call a basketball player a once in a generation leader, but I'm not sure it's inaccurate when you're talking about Walker, who was able to lash together a group of freshman and sophomores and carry them to greatness.

I take two things away from Napier's comments, one good and one bad, we'll start with the bad.

The bad is that Napier is still very, very young and he doesn't realize that you're not a leader just because you say you are. Whether or not Andre Drummond passes to Napier to reset does not make him any more or less of a leader, and Napier doesn't seem to understand that.

On the other hand, Napier is still very, very young and at least he recognizes that there is a void and has decided that he wants to fill it. If he gets there this year, that's great, after all the team is still a work in progress and all that really matters is what you do in March. If he doesn't get there, it's going to be a long year, but I am given hope by the fact that he's talking to the team alone in the locker room and the message he's delivering.

As for Calhoun, he's apparently a little unhappy with how last night went:




Also, he apparently once yelled "Jesus, Mary and Taliek," which is now my favorite exclamation of all time: