UConn star guard Shabazz Napier is just 6-1 but plays far bigger - as his 5.9 rebounds per game attest. He’ll take on the main assignment of defending Kane, but Ollie expects every player in the rotation will help out at some point.
Napier was a freshman on the 2011 national championship team, learning ball fakes and leadership skills from Kemba Walker. He was among the talented players who stayed loyal to UConn when they could have transferred because of the academic sanctions.
After the Huskies beat former Big East rival Villanova to return to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since that title run, Ollie told his players they’d come full circle. UConn was ineligible for the Big East tournament at the Garden in its last season in the conference.
Now the Huskies are playing in the Sweet Sixteen in the building where they won seven Big East tourney titles. Ollie warned that being the local favorite doesn’t guarantee anything. After all, UConn beat Memphis on the Tigers’ home floor in the American Athletic Conference tournament.
Still, Napier senses an edge from all those fans making the short trip to the Garden.
“When we are at home games and we’re tired, and they get us going, I don’t think anybody on the court would be tired after that,” he said. “Guys are just exerting all their energy that they possibly have and pushing themselves to get the game.”