Electric. Ice-cold. Leader. Intense. Clutch. Risky. Dynamic. “Scrappy”. All words that have been used to describe UConn point guard Shabazz Napier.
Oh, and Most Outstanding Player of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Not bad at all for a kid from Roxbury, Massachussetts that racked up a pair of championships playing nextdoor for the University of Connecticut Huskies, first as a freshman apprentice to Kemba Walker, then as UConn’s version of William Wallace in Braveheart as a senior. Growing up near Boston in Roxbury, Shabazz told the media today how he caught Celtics fever young and still loves his hometown team. ESPN’s Chris Forsberg got some great comments about growing up and bleeding green after Napier’s workout today.
“I grew up in Boston, so that’s all we know. We were watching one of the films in there that they put up and one of the guys was like, ‘Why were folks crying when Paul Pierce injured himself in the playoffs and they picked him up off the court?’ I said, ‘That’s Boston. You won’t ever understand it unless you play for Boston or you’ve lived in Boston. That’s just how we are. We love our teams. There’s no bandwagon fans in Boston. Whether we have a great year or not, we all support like it’s the best team we got.’ He was like, ‘Man, Boston is crazy.’ I said, ‘That’s what we are. Some crazy fans that want nothing but the best for our teams.”
It’s worth noting that Shabazz seems to have taken the idea of loyalty and being proud of your team to heart during his time at UConn. After Napier’s freshman season, UConn was slapped with a postseason ban from the NCAA for low APR scores, and several members of the team, fresh off a championship season in 2011, decided to transfer to chase another trophy. Napier, meanwhile, stayed in Storrs, Connecticut to play for the Huskies, and we all know how that worked out this year.
And in a moment that would give any Celtics fan that also happens to be a projected first or second round draft pick the chills, Napier got a chance to shoot the breeze for a bit with Celtics guard Rajon Rondo.
“When I saw him, I just said hello,” Napier said about meeting Rondo. “I saw him and I thought he looked great coming back off his surgery. He said he’s been feeling great. We chatted it up a little bit. He’s definitely a great person. I would love to be under him. I’m going to be a sponge [and] he’s one of those smart guys that really understands the game. Me and him just chatted it up a little bit. He congratulated me on a great season and wished me good luck in the process.”
Irony alert: Rondo is a former Kentucky Wildcat who’s been vocal in support of his old college team, and UConn took down Jim Calipari’s Wildcats 60-54 in this year’s NCAA championship.
Aside from occasionally being a bit of a gambler with the ball, the biggest knock on Shabazz so far has been his diminutive stature; he’s no Tyrion Lannister, but at 6’0’’, Napier isn’t exactly prototype guard height. He’s compensated for it so far with speed and ankle-breaking dribbling, but scouts are definitely taking the height aspect into account.
After taking it on the chin this season, the Celtics are loaded with draft picks, including two first-rounders, and Ainge and company could go in several different directions here – and if we’re being honest, there isn’t a single area of the Celtics lineup that couldn’t benefit from some new blood.
Still, it’s a safe bet that if Napier does have his name called by the Celtics on draft night, his smile might just be a bit bigger than some of the others.