Can Shabazz Napier Win Wooden Award?
The 2012-13 season provided no clear-cut favorite for the National Player of the Year award. Based on his clutch play, Trey Burke was given the award after putting up 18.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game on a talented team that reached the NCAA Championship game. This season’s Wooden Award Watch List includes 50 of the players that have gotten everyone’s attention. Fun fact: nine of those 50 are freshmen.
While this list includes many of Dicky Vitale’s “Diaper Dandies” like Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and Jabari Parker, it also includes players that have proven themselves at the college level like Marcus Smart and two-time All-American Doug McDermott. It also includes Connecticut’s senior point guard Shabazz Napier.
So far this season, the captain has posted a ridiculously impressive 16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game. He leads the Huskies in those categories. Implying that he would continue putting up these numbers would be farfetched, especially after conference play starts, but I can see his season averages ending up somewhere between 16.0-18.0 points, 5.0-7.0 rebounds and 7.5-9.0 assists per contest. Therefore, the question becomes: can he win the Wooden Award?
I believe he can. Keep in mind that if this Huskies team, filled with youth and inexperience, has any postseason success this year, it will be because of the efforts of Napier, the vocal leader of the team. The offense runs through him and he is the go-to player in all clutch situations. The team would be drastically negatively altered if he was not on the floor.
That being said, high-profile players on the list, with the exception of McDermott and Smart, have other star players on their teams, so not all of the weight lies on their shoulders. Napier is the heart and soul of this Connecticut squad, and if they reach their potential and cut down the nets at the end of the season, it will be with his leadership. That is why right now I can see him as a very viable option as a Player of the Year candidate. Although it’s far too early to hypothesize, if the first two games are any indication, Napier will be a force to be reckoned with all season long.
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