Monday, July 29, 2013

Player Profile: Shabazz Napier

Looking Back:  Shabazz Napier was heading into the 2012-2013 season with a lot of questions marks.  Could he be a leader and help transition a team through the loss of their Hall of Fame coach and NCAA sanctions?  It only took a few games to turn the leadership question around.  He played fantastic basketball, putting the team on his shoulders and carrying them to a 20 win season.  If UConn fans were unsure if Napier was the heart and soul of this team, they soon found out when he was out for a couple of games due to an injury.  The team struggled to run smoothly and floundered on both ends of the court.  Most of his numbers improved from the 2012 season to the 2013 season.  He did end up with less assists, 68 less, but that had to do with less scorers around him.  He improved his turnovers which plagued him a year ago and ended the season with 27 less than the previous campaign.  Under the circumstances, this was a huge year for Napier and proved that he wasn’t the poison pill in that 2012 season and that he could lead a team to a successful season.

The Good: Napier has all the tools to become an elite point guard.  He has good floor vision, hits the jumper with regularity, defends the pick-and-roll, can attack the lane with both hands, and can rebound.  He was the second best rebounder on the team with 123, had a team high 56 steals, and made the most 3-pointers on the team with 68. Each and every year he has improved and shown that he can make others better despite the dysfunction of the 2011-2012 team.

The Bad: If there is one thing holding Napier back from being one of the elite point guards is his height.  He also tends to take a more difficult shot or settle for jumpers instead of applying pressure to defenses.  He should be getting to the line more and 171 of his 331 shots were from three. His emotions do get the better of him at times and he isn’t shy to let others know about it.  He’s missing a mid-ranged game at this point of his career, and needs to play better perimeter defense.  He sometimes sags off his man and is slow to recover.

Looking Ahead: Barring injury, Napier should be in the conversation for All-American and All-American Athletic Conference teams, not to mention American Athletic Conference player of the year.  He is that good.  He should be average 17 points and 10 assists a game.  He has plenty of spot up shooters and play-makers around him to do so. If he can develop a mid-ranged game, play north and south more, and not try to make the home run pass all the time then he should be one of the best pure point guards to leave Storrs and is certainly underrated among UConn point guards to ever suit up the Connecticut jersey.

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