The UConn basketball program has developed its fair share of legendary basketball players.
There’s the world-renowned Ray Allen, whose exploits from behind the arc rank him as one of the best shooters in basketball history. There’s Emeka Okafor, whose contributions off the court are as remembered as his national championship on it. There’s even the unforgettable Kemba Walker, whose miraculous 2010-11 season ranks amongst the best individual seasons in NCAA history.
However, despite being one of the great hotbeds for NBA talent, there hadn’t been a single player in UConn history with multiple triple-doubles. That is until Shabazz Napier etched his name into yet another UConn record book, becoming the first player in Husky history to achieve the feat more than once.
“It means a ton,” said Napier about his day’s work. “I never thought I’d be in this position. I never thought I’d have one triple-double, and now I have two. It means a lot to know I’m with these guys.”
Napier’s stat line for Monday’s matinee showdown with in-state opponent Yale is impressive, as the senior guard led the Huskies to an 82-60 victory at the XL Center. The senior guard poured in 14 points on 5/7 shooting, all while recording 10 of the team’s 16 assists. However, Napier’s biggest contribution came on the glass, as the point guard listed quite generously as 6-1 accounted for 11 of the Huskies' 31 rebounds on the afternoon.
“Before the game started, I talked to coach (Kevin) Freeman, and I said that my biggest thing is that I want to be an all-around player,” said Napier post-game. “I want to help our team rebound and that’s our blueprint right there...I was rebounding and I was doing what I had to do.”
Napier truly does it all for the UConn team. Whenever the team needs a big bucket or a big stop, it is Napier who is there to lead the way. When another player needs a pick-me-up, Napier is the first one to get him back involved in the offense. Overall, when UConn needs anything, Napier leads the way.
“I told the team that our depth is so crazy that I don’t need to score,” said Napier to describe his role on this year’s team. “I said ‘Guys, we don’t need somebody that’s going to score 20 a game’…. It’s going to be all-around scoring and it should be that way. Everybody wants to be the big guy on campus or the scorer, but we don’t need all that… My role is to get guys open and to take as many shots as I feel open with.”
“He has a great basketball IQ,” said coach Kevin Ollie after the game. “He has an understanding of what I want. He has an understanding of what his players want. I keep just telling him to give away his gift. Perfect his gift and give it away.”
However, Napier selfishly admitted after the game that he was looking to find that final assist, if there is a way to be selfish in a way that involves finding your teammates for an open look.
“I had a feeling all I needed was one (assist) and one (rebound),” added Napier with a grin. “As soon as I got the rebound I was like ‘Boat (UConn guard Ryan Boatright) shoot it. I need the assist!’”
During the postgame festivities, Napier was handed a stat sheet detailing all of the triple-doubles in Husky history. Much to his surprise, his was the only name that appeared twice.
“I’m the only person with two of them?” asked Napier, who seemed shocked at what he had just accomplished. “Wow. That’s incredible.”
Incredible is exactly the word to describe Shabazz Napier. Incredible heart, incredible leadership and incredible passion have defined his time in Storrs
And with his latest record-breaking performance, Napier shows that he deserves to be mentioned with the incredible Huskies that have preceded him.
Where will Shabazz Napier rank among Husky greats when his time in Storrs comes to a close? Have a say with a comment below or tweet @R_Tolmich with your opinion!
*All quotes obtained first hand*