Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker makes Michael Kidd-Gilchrist wear UConn shirt after National Title win over Kentucky (PHOTO)

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Kemba Walker led UConn to a National Title three years ago. The next season, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis propelled Kentucky to the program’s eighth championship.

In consecutive seasons, the Charlotte Bobcats used draft picks on Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist. On Monday night, the teammates watched the championship game, rooting for their former schools. From start to finish, Walker’s Huskies led, beating MKG’s Wildcats, 60-54, in front of a record crowd inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Following the game, the two Bobcats posed for a picture with Kidd-Gilchrist wearing a No. 15 UConn T-shirt.

Comparing Shabazz Napier’s 2014 title run to Kemba Walker’s 2011 title run

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During UConn’s 2014 NCAA title run, many analysts and fans made comparisons between former Huskie guard Kemba Walker in 2011 and senior guard Shabazz Napier’s run in 2014.

Well, you can be the judge.

Napier’s numbers in the 2014 tournament and Walker’s numbers in the 2011 tournament are pretty similar. Walker might have been a junior with slightly better numbers, but Napier played a tougher run of teams.

Which guard had a greater impact on UConn winning a title?

Shabazz Napier in 2014

2013-14 Season: 17.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.8 steals per game

24 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals in win over Saint Joseph’s
25 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals in win over Villanova
19 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals in win over Iowa State
25 points, six rebounds, four assists, one steal in win over Michigan State
12 points, three rebounds, six assists, four steals in win over Florida
22 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals in win over Kentucky

2014 Tournament: 21.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.5 steals per game

Kemba Walker in 2011

2010-11 Season: 23.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.9 steals per game

18 points, eight rebounds, 12 assists, two steals in win over Bucknell
33 points six rebounds, five assists, one steal in win over Cincinnati
36 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals in win over San Diego State
20 points, four rebounds, seven assists, one steal in win over Arizona
18 points, six rebounds, seven assists, two steals in win over Kentucky
16 points, nine rebounds, zero assists, one steal in win over Butler

2011 Tournament: 23.5 points, 6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.5 steals per game

UConn point guard Shabazz Napier wins 2014 Bob Cousy Award

Shabazz Napier
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One day after leading his Huskies to the second National Title game appearance of his four-year career, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced that UConn senior point guard Shabazz Napier was the 2014 recipient of the Bob Cousy Award, given to college basketball’s best floor general.

“The Basketball Hall of Fame is proud to honor Shabazz Napier as the top college point guard of 2014,” John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said in a statement on Sunday. “Shabazz has proven himself a winner and has excelled tremendously this year with the Connecticut Huskies. He has demonstrated himself as a leader on the court and a deserving winner of this award.”

Napier was named to the Associated Press All-American first team while also earning player of the year honors in the newly-formed American Athletic Conference. He averaged 17.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game, leading the Huskies in all three categories.

“We are proud and honored that Shabazz has been named to receive the Bob Cousy Award and we obviously think it is well-deserved,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. “Shabazz has led our team in numerous statistical categories all season and has been a most valuable part of our success. But just as important, he has been an outstanding senior leader, setting an example for our players off the court. We are extremely happy for him.”

Napier won the award over the five other finalists — UCLA’s Kyle Anderson, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige and Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet. In 2011, UConn point guard Kemba Walker won the award.

Abdul Gaddy is the key to Washington’s season

Abdul Gaddy
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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Senior point guard Abdul Gaddy had made a career out of being a pretty good point guard for the Washington Huskies.

He came of the bench as a freshman, spelling Venoy Overton and Isaiah Thomas. He moved into a starting role as a sophomore, averaging 8.5 points and 3.8 assists before tearing his ACL that January, and followed that up with averages of 8.1 points and 5.2 assists as a junior. Throw in two NCAA tournament trips in those three seasons, and Gaddy has had himself a decent collegiate tenure.

The problem with Gaddy having a ‘decent collegiate tenure’ is that he was supposed to be oh so much more.

A McDonald’s All-American back in 2009, Gaddy was the No. 2 point guard in the class, sitting squarely behind John Wall. By comparison, the No. 2 ranked point guard in the Class of 2008, according to ESPN, was Kemba Walker. In 2010, it was Brandon Knight. In 2011, it was Myck Kabongo. Impressive company.

This season is Gaddy’s final chance to prove that he is capable of living up to those lofty expectations, and it happens to coincide with a year where Washington desperately needs to him to be a star.

Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar may have lost Terrence Ross after last season, but there are still plenty of pieces at his disposal, particularly on the wing. Scott Suggs and CJ Wilcox are both big, athletic wings capable of putting up 20 points on any given night, while sixth-man Andrew Andrews looks like he has the chance to be really good down the road. Aziz N’Diaye anchors the front court, and while he isn’t much more than a shot-blocker and a rebounder, Desmond Simmons has had a solid start to the year, averaging 9.0 points and 7.0 boards through three games.

But it all comes back to Gaddy, the tie that binds.

And never was that more clear than on Saturday night, as Washington knocked off Seton Hall 84-73 in overtime in the semifinals of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off.

In the first half, the Huskies looked utterly dominant. They shot 61.3% from the floor, they scored 49 points and they went into the break with a 16 point lead. And Gaddy? He was sensational, finishing with 14 points, five assists and just a single turnover while shooting 6-8 from the floor. He hit a three. He drove the lane and finished at the rim. He penetrated, drew defenders, and found the open man. He showed off a decent mid-range game.

“He played as good a first half as any guard around, I thought,” Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. “When he plays that way he makes our team play at a high, high level.”

And when he doesn’t?

“If no one else steps up, we’re just not that good. We don’t have much ‘superstar’ on our team, so if a couple guys aren’t performing at a high level, there’s not a lot of margin for error.”

That was evident in the second half.

As good as Gaddy was for the first 20 minutes, he was that bad in the second 20. Well, maybe bad is the wrong term; nonexistent is probably more accurate. He took just three shots from the floor. He didn’t score a single point or notch a single assist. He turned the ball over twice, but that’s not really an outlandish number.

Perhaps the biggest sign of Gaddy’s struggles were Washington’s struggles, as they blew that entire 16 point halftime lead. Seton Hall made went on a 31-9 run, eventually taking a 66-60 lead, as the Huskies struggled to get open looks and, at times, to simply get the ball across half court.

And that’s where Gaddy’s importance lies.

It’s not simply the points or the assists; it’s initiating the offense and getting the ball to the right people in the right spots at the right time. It’s facilitation more than simple production. And when he’s doing that effectively, the points and the assists are going to be a by-product.

The Huskies need him to be a leader, to be able to reliable on his consistent production.

It’s the difference between being a tournament team and a team that blows 16 point leads to Big East also-rans.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

The Morning Mix

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– Yesterday College Basketball Talk released season preview list of the 15 players with breakout potential in 2012-13. We also published part-2 of the 2012-13 CBT Unified All-Name Team. Trust me, you do not want to go any further until you check it out

– In unquestionably the most disgusting piece of news today, the house of Bowling Green State head coach Louis Orr was vandalized with racist graffiti over the weekend.  Just because we all know racism still exists does not mean we should tolerate it and allow it to happen. Disgusting.  Back in 2007, Ball State head coach Ronny Thompson resigned after just one season because of racist threats towards him. Thompson stated that he had been working in a racially hostile work environment.  Disgusting.

– Saint Louis point guard Kwamain Mitchell, a member of the Atlantic-10 All-Conference Third Team last season, underwent successful foot surgery yesterday to repair a fracture, and will miss at least the next six weeks. Mitchell is the team’s veteran ball handler and led the teams in steals and assists last season

– Who doesn’t love a story like this? 5-foot-10 Syracuse walk-on guard Nolan Hart was rewarded a scholarship by head coach Jim Boeheim. Walk-ons work just as hard as scholarship athletes, and it’s always nice to see the bench-warmers rewarded for their hard work

The Duke Blue Devils spent Monday at Fort Bragg, where they practiced in-front of roughly 1,000 troops. The Blue Devils also went through a rigorous boot camp, but took a lot away from the special opportunity they were blessed with. The Dukies also received some bad news on Monday, as it was announced that freshman Marshall Plumlee, the younger brother of senior Mason, will miss the next six to eight weeks due to a stress fracture in his left foot. The youngest of the Plumlee brothers took a redshirt season last year.

– This is kinda interesting: Due to the announcement that the state of New Jersey will begin issuing sports betting licenses in January, the NCAA has decided to remove all scheduled championship events from the Garden State. While no men’s basketball championship events will be relocated, the women’s east regional was scheduled to take place in Trenton and will no have to find an arena in a new state. Since we’re on the topic, you should probably know that the NCAA just surpassed $500 million in net assets, including an endowment fund of $260, which is double what it was in 2006.  Yet despite these gaudy numbers, the NCAA still refuses to provide student-athletes with a small stipend….

– The NCAA will not look to alter their current charge/block rules in the wake of the announcement that the NBA will be imposing fines for “flopping”. Hey look, it’s a rare sighting of the NCAA actually doing the right thing. Cherish these moments folks

– For the second straight day, Bob Knight is in the headlines for peculiar circumstances. Over Sunday is was reported that Knight, an outspoken critic of John Calipari and the University of Kentucky, will announce two Wildcat games this season. On Monday, news broke that the coaching icon will be auctioning off his three national championship rings, his gold medal from the 1984 Olympics and other various trophies and memorabilia  Why? No it’s not for a good cause. It turns out Knight just doesn’t have a use for any of those things, and wants to make some easy coin

– If Kansas wins the Big-XII Cofnerence title this season, it will be the school’s ninth in a row. It’s insane that this isn’t getting more publicity. Nine straight championships in anything is insanely difficult to do

– Athlon published their list of the top-10 impact freshman in 2012-13 (No real surprises here)

– Class of 2013 guard Roddy Peters will make his college decision tomorrow and is expected to choose his hometown Maryland Terrapins

– Yup, look for Adrien Payne to have an increased role for the Spartans, which should lead to a breakout season for the junior big-man

– Jim Calhoun gave a speech at a UConn Alumni dinner, and provided a bunch of thoughts on the players he won’t be coaching this year

– Speaking of former UConn people, Kemba Walker is narrating a 10-part documentary series that follows a New York City AAU team. When you play for the Charlotte Bobcats, you always have to have a back-up plan

– Hustle Belt ranks the non-conference schedules of all the team in the MAC

– Mid-Major Madness ranks the top-10 players in the Horizon League. Be on the look out for Cleveland State’s Anton Grady and Detroit’s Nick Minnerath. Both players should have breakout-caliber seasons

Troy Machir is the managing editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @TroyMachir.

Shabazz Napier has surgery on his foot

University of Connecticut's Napier fights to get his shot off under pressure in NCAA basketball game in Louisville
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Shabazz Napier was expected by many pundits to have a breakout season in 2011-2012, taking over the role of the primary ball-handler with Kemba Walker headed to the NBA.

That, frankly, didn’t happen.

While Napier put up some impressive performances against UConn’s cupcakes early in the seasons, he spent the majority of the Big East season playing dreadfully inconsistent basketball. He would look like a potential all-american one game and follow it up with the kind of play that would lead UConn fans to question why he was on the floor. Napier scored more than 20 points on 11 different occasions as a sophomore. He also had six or fewer points on 11 different occasions. There was one stretch that spanned three games where Napier missed 18 straight field goal attempts.

And that’s before he vocalized his concerns about the lack of leadership the Huskies had.

UConn fans were hoping this season would be different with Shabazz, and it still may be, but according to a release from the University on Monday afternoon, he’s been dealing with a stress fracture in his foot this offseason. It was bad enough that he needed surgery and will be out for a few weeks:

The fracture has been causing Napier discomfort for a few months and was the reason Napier decided to leave the Puerto Rican National Team after making the squad last spring. Rather than play hard on it all summer and possibly jeopardize his upcoming college season, Napier returned home for treatment.

According to the UConn medical staff, conservative treatment did not improve Napier’s condition, leading to the decision for surgery. Doctors said the operation was successful and Napier is expected to make a full recovery.

So after having a summer spent trying to heal up a bum foot, Napier had to eventually get surgery on it that will keep him out of action throughout September. That’s not exactly promising. There is some good news buried in that release, however: Napier “should be 100 percent healed by the time official practice begins on Oct. 13.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.