This weekend we saw rookie point guard Shabazz Napier take it to the San Antonio Spurs. He helped seal the deal in overtime for the second win of the Miami Heat’s preseason by putting on a scoring clinic. He looked sharp, spry and downright deadly with his jumper. In a game where Miami stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had the night off, it was Napier’s time to shine, and shine he did. Shabazz led all scorers with 25 points, including the game-sealing jump shot to take down the defending NBA champions. It was a sight for sore eyes as Napier struggled mightily in his summer league outings. He has shown much improvement since then.
So, now that we’ve seen a little bit of what the young point guard can bring to the court against a top-tier opponent, let’s take a step back and ask the question; who is Shabazz Napier?
Napier was born in Roxbury Massachusetts and developed a skill for the game at a very early age. He was never the biggest or the fastest, but those who know him best will tell you that nobody competes harder. In high school, he led his team to an undefeated 29-0 season and then elected to attend the University of Connecticut to play college ball.
Four years later — Shabazz Napier is essentially a legend at UConn. He managed to lead his team to two National Championship victories (2011, 2014) during his NCAA tenure, was named NCAA Tournament MVP and was even elected as the AAC player of the year in 2014.
Napier was then drafted in the first round to the Charlotte Hornets but after Lebron James tweeted out that Shabazz was his “favorite player” in the draft, Miami made a trade to nab the former Husky. The King made his request and the organization was quick to appease. Obviously, it wasn’t enough to keep Lebron in South Beach but the Heat organization isn’t looking back now. Pat Riley has expressed great fondnesss for Napier and hopes he can shore up some of the trouble the Heat have had at the point guard position over the last few years.
Young guys like Shabazz Napier and Jamess Ennis look to give the Heat a much needed energy boost coming off the bench for a predominantly veteran ball club.
Although Napier is undersized at just over 6 feet, 180 pounds, he posseses remarkable scoring ability and has significantly improved on his 3-point shot over the last couple of years. Don’t be surprised if this kid ends up as a starter by mid-season.
Miami has a lot to look forward to coming into the 2014-2015 season. With a slate of fresh faces and the potential to be serious contenders in the East, Shabazz and the Heat are sure to turn their fair share of heads starting in late October
Written by Grant Cohen