After nearly two months of contemplation, UConn point guard Shabazz Napier has decided to return to school.
A first team All-Big East selection, Napier announced his decision via UConn athletic communications Friday afternoon.
“I want to thank coach (Kevin) Ollie and the UConn coaching staff for their understanding and cooperation as my family and I needed space and time during this process of deciding what move was best for us,” Napier said. “I want to thank my teammates for allowing me to lean on their shoulders when I needed some support.”
As a junior, Napier compiled a remarkable season, among the most impressive of any point guard in program history. His 17.1 points, 4.6 assists, 2.0 steals and 39.8 percent marksmanship from 3-point range led the Huskies, and his intangibles were equally valuable. The 6-foot-1 Boston product transformed himself from an erratic sophomore who publicly called out his teammates to a confident, composed junior, the type of leader UConn needed as it faced a postseason ban.
The Huskies played a school-record seven overtime games, and Napier was nothing short of brilliant in each one. In 45 minutes of overtime this season, he scored 56 points.
“I think Shabazz’s decision is great for him and great for the university,” said UConn head coach Kevin Ollie. “I believe that first and foremost, it will give him a chance to earn his degree, which is something I know he’ll really cherish. At the same time, he’ll continue to hone his skills as a lead guard and contribute to us continuing the success of UConn basketball, but also he will keep cultivating the kind of atmosphere I want our student-athletes to be around. He was a big part of that with his leadership on and off the basketball court.”
Napier was considered a likely second round pick had he declared. With its leader back, UConn returns all five starters and its top seven scorers from a year ago. The Huskies, who finished 20-10, figure to be in the mix for a spot in the preseason top 25.
Sophomores Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels have also informed the coaching staff of their intentions to remain in school, according to the UConn athletic department.
“We think we have a great team for next season,” Napier said, “and we’re excited about playing for a conference championship and in the NCAA Tournament.”