On Apr. 4, 2010 Shabazz Napier, the 98th ranked high school senior in the country, signed with Jim Calhoun and the Connecticut Huskies. Fast forward to Mar. 30, 2014, and Napier has just proven to the entire country that he is now the best college basketball player in the country in a 60-54 win over the Michigan State Spartans, sending the Huskies to the Final Four.
The three years in between Apr. 4, 2010 and the beginning of this season could not have been what Napier had hoped for when he signed with UConn. After all, he signed with a Hall of Fame coach and a national powerhouse in UConn. After Napier’s first two years at UConn, Calhoun was gone and UConn was put on Academic probation, prohibiting the Huskies from playing in the NCAA Tournament for the 20-2013 season. Napier also had a new coach in Kevin Ollie and UConn lost its Big East affiliation. He could have transferred — others did.
But instead Napier stayed, got better and became a leader. In this his senior year, Napier became AAC Player of Year, and if the voters have eyes he will be a first team All-American in a few weeks. He’s still up for the Wooden Award, although the Naismith voters seeming don’t watch the Huskies play as he is no longer in the running for that award. But what Napier did today has put him among the legends of UConn Basketball and March Madness.
Napier scored 25 mesmerizing points, six rebounds and three assists to put him on the level of past UConn legends Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton and the great Kemba Walker in leading the Huskies back to the Final Four. More importantly, Napier re-established the UConn Basketball program as one of the nation’s elite just two years after Calhoun’s departure and subsequent probation threatened to end it.