Courtesy: Stephen Slade/UConn
Coaches want to see three key things from their team’s anointed “leader”:
- Define being a student-athlete.
- Further the positive culture of the program.
- And, makes plays!
With UConn trailing by just one game in the loss column to league leaders, Syracuse and Marquette; a legitimate chance to capture the Big East regular season title is in the balance, and the Huskies’ 6-foot-1, sophomore guard Shabazz Napier (Last week’s Big East Player of the Week) is evolving into quite the leader.
A closer look…
Define being a student-athlete:
Despite UConn being ineligible for the post season, as a result of low Academic Progress Rate scores, Napier was recognized before last Sunday’s game against the University of South Florida for marking a GPA of 3.0 during the fall semester.
Teammates R.J. Evans, Niels Giffey and Leon Tolksdorf were also cited for earning academic honors during the first semester.
Further the positive culture of the program.
“He’s [Napier] getting better as a leader. He’s improving each and every day. We always say you’re not born a leader and you make the choice to be a leader…he’s making a constant effort to try and lead, and it’s not even in the game, it’s in practice. It’s tremendous.” Coach Kevin Ollie proclaims.
Pretty much sums that up; however, in addition to his self-Improvement, Napier continues to aid his teammates’ abilities to execute.
In the Huskies last three victories, Napier is averaging 4.3 assists-per-game.
Teams that have a realistic chance to compete for a championship, whether it’s the regular season, conference, or NCAA tournament title usually possess at least one player who exudes an ability to not only monitor the intangible barometer of the squad but also make big plays/shots when necessary.
“He makes winning plays. That’s why I love the kid.” Ollie said, following a convincing 66-54 win over Rutgers on Jan 27th.
Last Sunday, in a 69-64 overtime win against the University of South Florida, Napier opened the extra session by knocking down three consecutive three-pointers on his way to posting 11 points in overtime alone.
Napier finished 7-for-14 from the floor for the game; the rest of the UConn roster, 10-for-43.
On Jan 31st, during the final 30 seconds of overtime, Napier nailed three of four shots from the charity strip to solidify 82-79 win over Providence before a crowd of 10,180 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Rhode Island.
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Napier gets another great opportunity to show his ability to lead tonight, when the Huskies travel to Madison Square Garden, New York to battle St. John’s at 7 pm.
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