The Sixth Man of the Year Award came down to Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Shabazz Napier. While Coombs-McDaniel had a pivotal and versatile role, especially defensively and on the boards, Napier’s ability to confidently run the point through key stretches to free up Walker was a major reason why UConn was able to achieve what they did this season. He was the spark off the bench and gave the offense and defense a jolt when it was lethargic which is what you want in a sixth man.
His ball handling was evident early on, he showed that he could hit the three ball every once in awhile, even if he took a ton of shots that weren’t in rhythm with the offense, and he played tenacious in-your-grill defense. He had problems finding his range late in the season, but he eventually became more comfortable and was using his speed to get to the rim or to the line. He had problems splitting double-teams and tried too many careless plays that led to turnovers, but he is more of a complete point guard at this point in his career than most UConn players ever to come to Storrs.
He is a prototypical Jim Calhoun player, tough nosed, defensive minded, and flew under the radar recruiting wise and he plays with a chip on his shoulder. Calhoun knows how to find these hidden gems and more importantly knows how to polish them. He is by far not a finished product and still has a ton of upside. He still has a street ball mentality and needs to be a bit more fundamentally sound when in traffic and when to take the deep shot.
With this magical season behind him, Napier has a chance to leave a significant legacy. He is not lacking in confidence and with more offensive shots to go around, he will be a bit more free to be more aggressive. He needs to develop a mid-ranged shot and find ways to get to the line more because he is a great free throw shooter, especially in crunch time. UConn fans aren't as worried now that Walker is heading to the NBA because they have full confidence that Napier is capable of handling the point guard duties. He has shown that he can handle the big stage and more importantly thrives in it.