UConn is relying heavily on a group of freshman this season. Jeremy Lamb, Roscoe Smith, and Shabazz Napier are all becoming vital players for the Huskies. Marcus Lynam has more from Storrs.
Tag Archives: Shabazz Napier
Going into this season not to many people outside of Storrs, Conn. thought the UConn Huskies were going to be a good basketball team. Frankly, not to many people outside Jim Calhoun, his assistants, and the players, may have thought this team had potential. Oh how things can change in three short days.
Heading out to Maui for the EA Sports Maui Invitational, the Huskies had the opportunity to prove themselves on a national stage against a crop of very good teams; and boy did they ever. Behind an absolute mind-blowing performance from junior guard Kemba Walker, the Fightin’ Jim Calhouns proved to everyone that UConn is still an elite basketball program.
“We wanted to show the world we’re still UConn and that Coach Calhoun can still coach a team,” said Walker, the tournament’s MVP after scoring 90 points in three games.
After a tough opening round game against a pretty good Wichita State team, and a heavyweight fight in the semifinals against second ranked Michigan State, UConn finished up their week in paradise with a shellacking of ninth ranked Kentucky and their head coach John Calipari (Personally, and I feel I speak for most UConn fans when I say, there is no one else in college basketball I love beating more than Calipari).
Calhoun couldn’t have been more proud of his young team: “I fell in love with this team,” Calhoun said. “I know the effort is legitimate and as coaches that’s what you want all the time.”Walker made quite a name for himself as well. He played on an entirely different level than the rest of the field all week. Whenever UConn needed a basket, Kemba was there. UConn knew who was going to take the big shots, the fans knew it, and even the other teams knew it…yet they couldn’t stop him. His performance has bolted him into Player of the Year consideration (granted it’s still November), and has seen his draft stock explode upwards. One NBA scout told ESPN.com, “I’m not sure he’s going to be a star [in the NBA], but I just love how he played here and how hard he’s worked on his game. If he keeps this up all season, he’s a top-10 pick.”
While Walker was the star of the tournament, he did receive help from his supporting cast. Alex Oriakhi seems to finally be living up to his potential as he averaged 15 points and 11.67 rebounds in the tournament’s three games. Other players who seemed to really step up during the tournament, include Shabazz Napier, Roscoe Smith, and Niels Giffey, all of whom are freshman. They played like experienced players, and seemed to make the right decisions in key moments. Their hustle and energy really sparked the Huskies.
UConn will now enjoy a nice flight back to campus, and then it’s time to get back to work as the team takes on New Hampshire next Tuesday night (November 30th).
In case you missed anything over the past month concerning UConn football or basketball, this “News and Notes” post will fill you in with anything and everything UConn.
– UConn started spring practice on March 16 in Storrs. They practice three times a week: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
– Head Coach Randy Edsall is excited about the 2010 season, and is looking for younger players to step during spring drills.
– The Spring Game aka the “Blue and White Game” will be held April 17, at Noon at The Rent. The event will be a little different this year, as Coach Edsall has decided to bring back former players to be the Honorary Captains of the two teams. The former players selected were Dan Orlovsky, Ryan Krug and Alfred Fincher from the 2004 team that won the first ever bowl game in program history, as well as Donald Brown and Tyler Lorenzen from the 2008 team.
– UConn held its annual Pro-day on March 25. UConn seniors that participated were Robert McClain, Andre Dixon, Marcus Easley, Lindsey Witten, Brandon Dillon, Robbie Vaughan, Mike Hicks, Dan Ryan, Desi Cullen, Brad Kanuch. Over 25 NFL scouts were on hand for the event. Many experts expect that up to four Huskies will be drafted in April’s NFL Draft. The players who have a good shot at being drafted include, running back Andre Dixon, receiver Marcus Easley, defensive end Lindsey Witten, and cornerback Robert McClain.
– Head Coach Randy Edsall made a few position changes after the first week and a half of practice. Senior outside linebacker Kijuan Dabney will be moved to safety, and freshman safety Andrew Opoku, who is 6 feet 4, will move to outside linebacker. The ‘ole swith-er-roo.
– The Huskies begin their season on September 4th, when they travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan to face the college football powerhouse Michigan Wolverines.
– After a disappointing finish to a very disappointing season, as the Huskies lost in the second round of the NIT at Virginia Tech, the Huskies have begun to move forward, as they are forgetting about this past season and starting to prepare for next year.
– UConn will head into the offseason with a few question marks: Who will replace the production of Stanley Robinson, Jerome Dyson, and Gavin Edwards? Will Kemba Walker stay for his Junior year? Will UConn land another top-flight recruit? Will Alex Oriahki and Ater Majok improve and become more consistent? Will any players transfer?
– Speaking of transfering…it is almost certain that the Huskies will have at least one, possibly two players transfer from the program. The most likely candidates are Darius Smith and Jamaal Trice.
– The Huskies got a commitment from two players this past weekend. One is still in high school, while the other is already on the team. Kemba Walker will return for his Junior season, and will most likely be one of, if not the best, point guards in the nation next year. The other player to commit to the Huskies is point guard Shabazz Napier of Lawrence Academy. Napier is currently listed as a Junior, but is in the process of reclassifying as a Senior, and will most likely be the fifth recruit for the 2010-2011 season. He is currently ranked the 9th best point guard in the Class of 2011 by Rivals.com.
– The Huskies got a verbal commitment from an in-state product. E.O. Smith Forward Tyler Olander, a three-star prospect, made his verbal commitment to his hometown Huskies. He picked UConn over offers from Florida, Notre Dame, Virginia, and Wake Forest.
– Speaking of recruiting….Mike Anthony of the Hartford Courant put together an update of how this years recruiting is going. Possibly really good news for the Huskies.
– Coach Jim Calhoun has pledged he is close to signing a contract extension that will keep him at the school for 5 more years.