Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
UConn’s Napier Considered Leaving After Calhoun Retired
NEW YORK — UConn junior point guard Shabazz Napier said he was so surprised and distraught when Jim Calhoun retired last month, that he briefly considered leaving the program.
“When I heard he was retiring I just felt inner disbelief and I felt kind of scared in a way, to be exact,” Napier told SNY.tv in the above video interview Wednesday at Big East Media Day. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Napier said he found out about the retirement from the media — not from Calhoun himself.
“I was upset that Coach Calhoun didn’t actually tell us before the media found out,” Napier said.
Asked how close he came to leaving UConn, Napier said, “Not really close, but close enough…I thought about it in my head and I never came to the realization that, you know what, I’m going to pack my bags and leave. I’d rather just stay here.”
Napier said he decided to stay only after sitting down and talking with Calhoun and new coach Kevin Ollie, whose contract runs through April of next year.
“[Coach Ollie] had to listen to what I felt,” Napier said. “Coach Ollie’s a great listener.”
He added: “I came back because I wanted to stay loyal.”
In the wake of being handed a postseason ban due to sub-par APR levels, UConn already lost numerous players in the offseason both to the NBA Draft (Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb) and to transfer (Michael Bradley, Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith).
Had they lost Napier, too, it would have been devastating.
The 6-foot-1 junior was named to the Preseason All-Big East Second Team.
He is coming off September surgery on his rightfoot to repair a bothersome stress fracture, but says he’s getting back to full strength.
“My foot’s feeling actually better,” he said. “I practiced [Tuesday] and it’s feeling better than it usually does. It was sore but if I had to put a number on it, it was 85 percent. A couple more days I should be 100 percent and giving it all.”
Napier, sophomore guard Ryan Boatright and junior forward Tyler Olander were named tri-captains of team picked to finish ninth in the 15-team league.
With no Big East or NCAA Tournament possibilities on the horizon, they know it will take an extra effort to motivate their teammates night in and night out.
“Every day before we go out to practice I tell them that we got something to prove, prove the world wrong,” Boatright told SNY.tv in the video below.
“Nobody expects us to do anything, nobody expects us to have a good season due to our situations and everybody had left. And I honestly feel like we got enough in our locker room to upset a lot of teams and open a lot of eyes.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.