2014 NBA Draft: Shabazz Napier’s Stock On The Rise

Shabazz Napier
Shabazz Napier
Connecticut Huskies guard Shabazz Napier 13 shoots the ball against Michigan State Spartans forward Adreian Payne 5 and guard Keith Appling 11 during the first half in the finals of the east regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at Madison Square Garden Robert Deutsch USA TODAY Sports

Shabazz Napier’s NCAA tournament run has been so dominant the Connecticut senior guard is thought to have played himself into the first-round of the upcoming NBA draft.

In netting 24, 25, 19 and 25 points, Napier has conjured up comparisons of former UConn star Kemba Walker, who parlayed a similarly dominant 2011 NCAA title run into a lottery round NBA draft selection by the Charlotte Bobcats.

“Napier’s stock is rising,” said ESPN NBA analyst Chad Ford. “He’s been arguably the best player in the NCAA tournament. He’s hit clutch shot after clutch shot, has a sick handle and has willed UConn to the Final Four.”

Much like when the time comes to take one of those clutch and critical shots, Napier seems to be taking all the praise in stride.“I’m not really thinking of it,” he told the New York Daily News of the Walker comparisons. “I’m not going to shy away from it. If you guys believe I’m kind of like Kemba, then that’s cool. I’m not going to say you’re wrong. I just live with it. I’m not too worried about it.”

Napier was just a freshman when Walker went on his magical run. Napier remembers how crazy things became around Storrs back in those days, and he insists he wants no part of any such scene this time around.

“I don’t want the glamour and lights and all that,” he said. “I’m just a regular guy. I don’t cut in line. I don’t do nothing like that.”

But regular guys don’t really do what Napier’s been doing over the last several weeks. He was named the East Regional’s most Outstanding Player after torching Michigan State for 25 points in Sunday’s upset win.  A day later, he was named an AP First-Team All-American.

“I just want to go out there and be myself,” said Napier, who hit a game-winning jumper against Florida, this weekend’s final four opponent, back in early December. “At the end of the day, Walker took that team to a national championship and I want to do the same. But I’m going to do it a different pathway. And I’m going to be myself.”

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Glenn Minnis
Glenn Minnis is an XN Sports NBA contributor. He has written for the Chicago Tribune, ESPN, BET and AOL. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.