UConn Basketball: Shabazz Napier's Growth Now a Necessity for the Huskies

Jimmy KelleyCorrespondent IApril 16, 2012

Finding that delicate balance between creating and scoring will be huge for Shabazz Napier in 2013.
Finding that delicate balance between creating and scoring will be huge for Shabazz Napier in 2013.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Shabazz Napier is now the man in Storrs, Connecticut.

UConn stars Andre Drummond, Alex Oriakhi and Jeremy Lamb are gone. Michael Bradley is gone as well, meaning that once Holy Cross transfer R.J. Evans signs his letter of intent, there will be just nine Huskies on the roster for next season.

Napier took on a much bigger role and ended the season as the Huskies second-leading scorer at 13 points per game to go with 5.8 assists, while also finding his groove at the guard position.

Now he must start all over again as three of his go-to teammates are now either NBA-bound or in Missouri.

A notoriously efficient player, Napier's percentages were low due to a tough stretch during the middle of the season when he shot a combined 14-for-57 (24.6 percent) while UConn lost five of six games.

More worrisome about his performance during that stretch was that those games came against Tennessee, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Seton Hall (the lone win), Louisville and Syracuse.

A stretch like this is part of playing in the Big East, and if UConn is going to weather that schedule they will need Napier to be what he was during the Big East Tournament: himself.

In the Huskies three wins at the Big East Tournament, Napier turned in scoring numbers of 23, five and 26 points.

UConn needed him to score against Pittsburgh and West Virginia, so he did. They needed him to facilitate against DePaul, so he did (2-for-3 shooting, six assists, no turnovers).

The two newcomers, Evans and freshman Omar Calhoun, will be able to pick up some of the scoring slack that Lamb left behind. And Ryan Boatright will be in the fold for the entire year which will take a lot of pressure of Napier on the offensive end.

Napier has been exceptional at times in his career and we can only hope that this coming year will be the year he puts it all together. If he can do that, UConn will weather this storm of allegations and come out on the other side a stronger group.