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That didn’t always play well with others, however. Once Calhoun retired, the sanctions hit and teammates fled, the load was left for Napier to carry. He would either mature or the program could implode in Ollie’s first year as head coach. And so, with nothing to play for except each other, Napier led the Huskies in points and assists and to a surprising 20-10 record last season.

With the postseason ban in place, Napier couldn’t stand to watch the tournament go on without him. A fishing fanatic, he watched the Animal Planet program “River Monsters” instead. It was his way of coping. But all along Napier was planning for his final season. This time he led Connecticut in points, assists, steals and rebounds, too. He began to make the inevitable comparisons to Walker seem reasonable.

“Oh, no, it’s fair. It’s fair. He’s that type of player,” Giffey said. “But they play in a different way. I like to compare him to Kemba in the way they think about the game. They’re different basketball players [but] they have the same mindset — the winning mindset.”

Napier averages 18.1 points per game and is tied with 6-10 forward DeAndre Daniels at 5.9 rebounds per game. He also averages 4.9 assists. He just passed NBA star Ray Allen for fourth on the all-time scoring list at Connecticut (1,925 points) and ranks second in free throws (503) and 3-pointers (254) and third in assists (637). No one has appeared in more games for the Huskies (141).

Yes, the shot selection can still drive Ollie crazy and Napier turns the ball over almost three times a game. But there is always that confidence. In a 3-for-20 rut against Villanova two years ago, Napier shook off a Wildcats game-tying layup with seconds to play, dribbled up court and calmly sank that 35-footer to win the game.

It will always be difficult for Napier to shake the label that he dominates the ball too much. “Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how not to play with the ball in your hand,” he said.

Villanova coach Jay Wright compared a sophomore Napier to former Georgetown star Allen Iverson, another 6-foot guard who was at his best with the ball in his hands. This season, according to ESPN Stats & Info, Napier scores or assists on 45 percent of UConn’s points, the most by any Final Four player since … Kemba Walker. There is that comparison again.

“[Napier] was a scorer then. Now he is a complete guard, like what we like to teach our players to be,” Wright said. “Great decision‑maker, scorer at the right time, leader, defensive player. I don’t know if a guy like him, if he would have left early [for the NBA], would have developed into as complete a player.”

It turned out that while Napier was maturing, he was also absorbing lessons. From Walker, on the court, he took a step-back pump fake that is a lock to get defenders in the air and himself to the foul line. Off the court, he eventually figured out how Walker rallied a group of disparate players together for one cause.

“The one thing about Shabazz, he had a great freshman year, too,” said former UConn star Richard Hamilton, second on that all-time scoring list, said. “He’d been on this stage. He’s played in a national championship game and played well doing it. So now it’s his team and he’s taking the young guys underneath his wing.”

From his mom, Carmen Velasquez, who raised three kids by herself in an unforgiving neighborhood, Napier learned the value of opportunity. His sister, Titana, is 28. His brother Timmie Barrows, is 26. The baby of the family, a sociology major, is just weeks away from a college degree that eludes so many in Roxbury.

Shabazz just made it a little easier for me growing up, staying focused, playing basketball, staying out the street,” Velasquez said. “He was a clown in school, but once he realized he needed to get the grades to get to the level he’s at he changed it all the way around. It’s a special thing.”

And now Napier is two wins away from another special thing. His team has already beaten Florida once this season, a thrilling game at Gampel Pavilion on Dec. 2 where Napier, of course, sank the winning shot at the buzzer. The Gators haven’t lost since.

Florida is favored to take the rematch. Shabazz Napier is undaunted.

“He’s not scared to fail, and I think that’s one of his biggest attributes,” Ollie said. “He’s not scared of the moment. He’s not waiting for his giants. He’s going to meet them.”