By William S. Paxton
ARLINGTON, Texas – The comparisons to another famous point guard are over. Shabazz Napier has his own special place in UConn basketball history now.
The senior point guard accomplished something not even predecessor Kemba Walker could do – win two national championships with the Huskies. Napier scored 22 points in Monday night’s 60-54 victory over Kentucky in the national championship game at AT&T Stadium in front of a record crowd of 79,238.
Napier, who finished the tournament with 127 points, will graduate UConn with two championship rings along with Tyler Olander and Niels Giffey.
“Man, we’re the best team in the country,” Napier said. “It’s not the Shabazz Show. No. I don’t need to get recognized. They understand that. It’s the University of Connecticut Huskies. We went out there and proved it.”
There was plenty of credit to spread, starting with juniors Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels, around after the Huskies’ fourth national title since 1999 – which is the most by any school in that span. But, Napier deserved his moment in the spotlight after a remarkable four-year career with the program.
“Hell of a player,” Boatright said. “Great player. Pro. Great teammate and great leader. He’s my brother, man. I love him.”
Napier could have left in 2012 after coach Jim Calhoun retired and turned the program over to Kevin Ollie. He could have left after last season and dipped his toes in the NBA a year earlier. But through good times and bad, Napier stayed true to his school.
And he leaves with his name all over the Husky record books, starting with most games played (143) and free throws made (509), fourth in scoring (1,959 points), second in steals (251), third in assists (646) and second in three-pointers made (260).
“It was a wonderful job and he’s a wonderful young man,” Ollie said. “He’s always going to have a home here. He’s got two national championships; nobody can say that in our history. Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander have two national championships – nobody can say that in our history.”