For the majority of his career, Ryan Boatright lived in the shadow of Shabazz Napier. This year, with Napier gone, Boatright finally has the chance to be the top dog for the first time in his career. Following Napier is no easy task. Napier, a two-time national champion and the 2014 AAC Player of the Year, Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Bob Cousy Award Winner and First Team All-American was viewed by many as the most important player in UConn history. Many questioned whether or not Boatright could ever be the No. 1.
For three years, Boatright was overshadowed by Napier. Napier got all the glory, the awards, the big shots, the banners. Boatright was the second fiddle, the guy who could be counted on to help Napier.
But if the Huskies needed a bucket? Give it to Shabazz. Need a game winner? Give it to Shabazz. The star was Shabazz. Everything was about Shabazz. Despite his contributions, Boatright remained almost an afterthought. He easily could have gone pro, and had he, he likely would have been lost behind legend of Napier forever.
But he stayed for his senior season and he has had the chance to step out from behind Napier for the first time and make his own mark on UConn history.
To this point in his senior season, he has not disappointed. He has carried this team for the majority of the season. When his teammates struggle, Boatright reacts by upping his game. When faced with an injury, he tries to fight the pain to stay in the game. Boatright has averaged 20.7 PPG in games without injury, which is nearly one-third of his team’s points.
Against Florida, despite a thigh contusion that prevented him from finishing the game against Temple, and from practicing all week, he scored 14 points, including a 4-point play, and a huge pair of free throws at the end of the game. He has quietly moved up the UConn scoring list, to No. 21, passing the likes of Donny Marshall, A.J. Price and, most recently, the late Art Quimby, along with the 1,400 points mark this season.
Don’t let his career pass you by. Boatright is a special player. He has fought through more adversity than anyone in recent memory. He never gives up, even when there is no hope, such as last seasons American Athletic Conference championship game. His defense won a national championship. His toughness is like no other. Although the team has struggled as a whole at times this season, Boatright has remained the constant. He deserves to be talked about in the same breath as Kemba Walker and Napier. And as Kevin Ollie said, don’t be surprised if he follows in their footsteps come March.