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Shabazz Napier feeling the Heat

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published June 27. 2014 4:00AM
Kathy Willens/ AP Photo
Former UConn star Shabazz Napier, right, who led the Huskies to last season's national championship, was taken in the first round of the NBA Draft on Thursday, hearing his name called by league commissioner Adam Silver, left.
Final Four MVP chosen in first round of NBA Draft

A long wait to learn his NBA Draft fate was worth it for Shabazz Napier.

Over two and a half hours into Thursday's draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., Charlotte selected Napier at No. 24 overall and then traded the former UConn point guard to the Miami Heat for the 26th pick and two second round selections.

Napier is the 19th UConn player in the program's basketball history to go in the first round. He was thrilled to share the special moment with his family.

"This is definitely a true blessing, and it's just special because my family's here," Napier told reporters during a press conference. "You know, my mother, my brother, my niece and my sister. ... I'm a family-oriented guy, and life would be definitely meaningless without my family. That's the first thing that I want to get off my chest.

"The second thing, I'm just happy. I'm happy that I got drafted."

Napier could begin his professional career playing with LeBron James and former UConn standout Ray Allen. James tweeted his approval shortly after the trade was announced: "My favorite player in the draft! #Napier."

Napier remembered talking to James, who opted out of his contract on Monday but could still return to Miami, while attending one of the Heat star's camps.

"It's just something special to know that one of the best players in the world thinks about you and appreciates your talent," Napier said. "That's something that I'm so humble for."

In the last few days, media reports indicated that Miami targeted Napier, who helped the Huskies win two national championships and earned All-American honors last season.

Napier sat and watched five other point guards be selected before hearing his name called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

By drafting Napier, Miami fills a backcourt need. Mario Chalmers is a free agent and Norris Cole had an inconsistent season.

"There's always an opportunity to do something great, and no matter if I was going to slide in as a starter or come off the bench, I'm still going to work hard," Napier said. "I'm going to compete."

Napier told ESPN right after his selection that he was the best point guard in the draft. Now he's determined to back up his statement.

"The chip never leaves my shoulder," Napier said. "It will never leave my shoulder. That's what makes me who I am. And I was saying that not to belittle any other point guards. There's a reason why they're here. But I was just saying that because that's who I am."

UConn forward DeAndre Daniels, who did not attend the draft Thursday, was selected in the second round, going 37th to the Toronto Raptors. He left UConn after his junior year.

g.keefe@theday.com

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