BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 22: Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies takes a shot as James Bell #32 and Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats defend during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the First Niagara Center on March 22, 2014 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Another week, another honor for senior point guard Shabazz Napier: He has been named a first-team All-American by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
It's the latest in a long line of awards, including the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Sports Illustrated first-team All-American teams, AAC Player of the Year, a five-time AAC Player of the Week winner, AAC first-team honors, not to mention the eight times he made the AAC honor roll.
"Shabazz is just the heartbeat of our team," coach Kevin Ollie said earlier this month. "He leads us in all the important categories ... he just means so much to our team dynamic."
Last October, Napier was named to the Bob Cousy watch list, the annual honor that goes to the best collegiate point guard in the country. In January, he was one of 25 candidates for the Wooden Award, which recognizes the nation's best player, and in February, he found himself on the midseason watch list along with 29 other candidates for the Naismith Men's Player of the Year Award, which also goes to the nation's best player.
Along with 14 other players, he is in the running for the 2014 Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year Trophy. And it sounds like if Robertson himself could hand out the trophy, it would go straight to Napier.
"I think he's a replica of Kemba Walker," Robertson, 76, said recently, according to the Hartford Courant. "I don't know if he can shoot as good as Kemba Walker, that remains to be seen, but he's made some great shots for them. If it were not for Napier, they wouldn't be anywhere at all, they'd be dead in the water."
Another Hall of Famer familiar with Napier's game echoed similar sentiments.
"[Shabazz] can do a lot of things," former Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said. "Like Kemba [Walker]. We had other guys who could rebound that year, but Kemba averaged [5.7] rebounds a year [in 2010-11]. What I loved about Oscar, and other great players, he transcended a position. We have so many specialists – the two, the three, the wing, the stretch four. You know what? Basketball player, basketball player, basketball player. A scorer, point guard, rebounder, great defender, heart and soul of the team – basketball player."
Napier, who leads the team in scoring (17.8), rebounding (5.9), assists (5.9), steals (1.8) and minutes played (34.8), is four games away from replicating what Walker pulled off three years ago when the Huskies stormed through the NCAA Tournament all the way to a title. The fun continues Friday night when UConn faces Iowa St. in Madison Square Garden.