Why UConn’s Shabazz Napier gets no respect

AP Photo

AP Photo

He’s the Rodney Dangerfield of college basketball point guards, a floor general who gets no respect.

UConn’s Shabazz Napier has the numbers, the attitude and the leadership skills to be considered among the best players in the country, yet you never hear his name when national pundits talk about their All-American candidates.

Look at an NBA mock draft, and he’s buried in the second round.

Search for college basketball’s mid-season All-Americans, and he’s nowhere to be found.

It’s like UConn has entered some sort of post-Big East twilight zone, where the player Huskies fans see every night isn’t the same guy the national media sees.

Napier hits game-winning shots, yet somehow gets criticized for them.

He’s put up better numbers than Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart, yet Smart (even after he pushed a Texas Tech fan on Feb. 8) remains on everyone’s first-team All-American list.

Napier is averaging 18 points, a TEAM-LEADING 5.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Smart averages 17.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

Napier shoots 44% from the field and 42% from the three-point line. Smart shoots 42% from the field and just 28% from three. Both average around 2.7 turnovers per game.

Smart pushed a fan in the stands, and Oklahoma State has fallen apart, losers of seven straight. Napier is the rock that guides the 20-5 Huskies, and without him, they wouldn’t be a Top 25 team.

Maybe Shabazz is snubbed because he now plays in the off-the-radar American Athletic Conference, which isn’t on TV as much as the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12 or Big XII.

Maybe it’s because Kevin Ollie is in just his second season at UConn, and the media isn’t ready to admit that the Huskies are still one of the nation’s top programs. Whatever it is, it’s insulting to Huskies fans, who know just how good their point guard has been this season.

My friend RJ brought up the comparison with last year’s National Player of the Year–then-Michigan sophomore Trey Burke.

Category                              Burke                   Napier

Field Goal %                        .463                         .445

2-Point FG%                        .506                         .461

3-Point FG%                        .384                         .421

Assists Per Game                  6.7                          5.5

Rebounds Per Game            3.2                           5.8

Steals Per Game                   1.6                          1.9

Turnovers Per Game            2.2                           2.6

Points Per Game                 18.6                         18.0

Their numbers are pretty similar, and while Burke has the overall advantage, there’s no way you can say he’s out of Napier’s class.

NBA scouts will tell you that the 6-1, 190 pound point guard is small for the next level, and that he doesn’t play enough defense. But the same could have been said for Burke, who is listed at 6-1 but couldn’t hit that mark on a scale if he wore Bootsy Collins’ shoes.

Burke was the No. 9 overall pick in last year’s draft. Napier is projected by to go No.36.

Ten point guards are listed ahead of Shabazz in that mock draft, including guys from Xavier, Nevada, and Louisiana-Lafayette. Seriously.

Now, Napier isn’t going to be a star at the NBA level, but he knows how to run a team and has more than enough quickness, ballhandling and shooting ability to hold his own in the league. It wouldn’t be surprising if he ended up as a starter, or a very solid backup on a quality team.

Remember–this is the same kid who won a national championship as a freshman starter in 2011. Can Elfrid Payton say that?

No respect, I’ll tell ya.

No respect.

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