Friday, July 20, 2012

Player Profile: Shabazz Napier

Looking Back:  Shabazz Napier was coming off an impressive season where he played the point guard position off the bench that freed up Kemba Walker and allowed him to play effectively without the ball.  Napier showed a tenacious defensive ability that frustrated opposing guards and often times led to easy steals and lay-ups.  So coming into his sophomore season, everyone was expecting him to carry that play over and progress, but it didn’t.  He struggled at times in when and where to take shots, when to distribute the ball, and how to give and take with his teammates.  The team never gelled and part of the blame has to go on his public outburst at his teammates.  By the end of the season it all fell apart with early departures and transfers that left a sour taste in what should have been a great season.

The Good:  There is no doubt that Napier has the talent to be a top tier point guard in the Big East.  He has the outside shot, a great first step, plays in your shirt defense, and has good vision.  He is a tough nosed kid who takes losing personal and shows his emotion on his sleeve.  When UConn needed a shot, Napier wasn’t shy about taking it and made his fair share.  Later in the season, Napier began to take the ball to the basket more which got him to the line.  It opened up his jumper and made him a more complete player.  He led the team in steals at 56 a game, had the most free throw attempts at 148, and nearly had 200 assists.

The Bad: He forced himself to become a leader of the team last year and several players didn’t respond well to it.  There seemed to be a major rift between Lamb and Napier which caused a broken locker room.   He never gelled with the team, either not taking enough shots or taking too many and he never found that sweet spot.  He struggled to get his outside shot to be consistent until they were far too deep in a hole.  His offensive woes would carry over onto the defense end and he led the team in personal fouls at 87.  He also needs to limit his turnovers which were way too high for a top level point guard, 94.

Looking Ahead:  This is his team now and he needs to lead by example.  The offense will flow through him a majority of the game and he needs to understand when and where to take shots, distribute the ball, and play tight defense.  He needs to avoid foul problems at all costs, because he will be hovering around 35 minutes a game.  He will need to score around 17 to 20 points a game, hover around 8 to 10 assists, limit his turnovers, and keep his frustration in check.  If he can do all that then he should be a consideration for Big East Player of the Year.

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