UConn freshman guard Jalen Adams knows he is following in the footsteps of many great guards by playing for the Huskies.
Of course, there is one iconic UConn guard who comes to mind when talking about Adams, a native of Roxbury, Massachusetts.
"It's unreal, knowing a kid from my neighborhood—Shabazz Napier, he's from Roxbury—it's crazy knowing the things he did up here," Adams said when he met the media for the first time Tuesday.
The things Napier did were indeed crazy. He ranks fourth in UConn history with 1,959 points. His 260 3-pointers are second all time. He has the second-most steals (251) in UConn history and the third-most assists (646). He played in more games than anyone (143), partly because he is part of the only UConn class to win two national championships.
In the second year of the post-Napier era, another son of Roxbury will step out on the floor at Gampel Pavilion. Napier's sign in the Huskies of Honor will hang over Adams, a reminder of Roxbury's special place in UConn history.
Despite the success of a local hero, Adams does not feel any pressure as he enters his first season with the Huskies.
"I'm just hoping I can be close to as good as him," Adams said. "I'm definitely going to learn and work my way up the ladder."
Having a newcomer from the same hometown as Napier makes it easy for fans to want to expect Adams to be Napier 2.0, but that probably will not be the case. Adams is certainly a great addition for the Huskies, but he does not see many similarities between his game and Napier's.
"I think his game is very different," Adams said. "He's more of a really skilled point guard. He's a really good leader. I'm working to be a good leader like him and definitely to get my jump shot just like his. I think the one thing we do have similar is craftiness, like getting to the basket and stuff like that. I think I'm just a little bit more athletic and a more of an athletic-type player."
Adams is spending the summer rooming with Sterling Gibbs, which should be a great benefit for the freshman. He loves that Gibbs has NCAA Tournament experience and can teach him what it takes to be a point guard and a leader on a college basketball team.
Gibbs has high hopes for his summer roommate. The graduate transfer from Seton Hall said Adams will play a big role for UConn this season, and he expects the Huskies to depend on him.
"I think he has a lot of talent," Gibbs said. "He has a lot of potential. I think for him to have someone—I guess like myself who's been through college a little bit—I think that will help him out a little bit. I'll be able to show him some things, and I think at the same time he can show me some things as well. It works out for both of us."
Gibbs is likely going start at point guard for the Huskies. Adams can also play point guard, but will probably see a lot of time playing off the ball. That is fine with Adams, who said Kevin Ollie has explained to him that UConn is "position-less."
"That's why I was excited rather than stressing about it," Adams said of Gibbs' decision to transfer to UConn. "I know Kemba (Walker) and Shabazz Napier played together. Shabazz Napier and (Ryan) Boatright played together, so you can play with two guards. It doesn't matter."