STORRS, Conn. (April 26, 2013) --- University of Connecticut junior guard Shabazz Napier (Roxbury, Mass.) has informed the UConn coaching staff that he intends to return to school for his senior season in 2013-14.
Napier, a first team All-BIG EAST selection after leading the Huskies to a 20-10 record last year, finalized his decision on Friday morning, forgoing the chance to declare himself eligible for the NBA draft.
"After many days of figuring out what decision was best for my family and me, I have decided to remain at UConn for my senior year," Napier said. "I am very much looking forward to getting closer to receiving my college degree, as well as becoming a stronger leader for my teammates on and off the court."
Sophomore guard Ryan Boatright (Aurora, Ill.) and sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels (Los Angeles, Calif.), UConn's second-leading scorer and top rebounder respectively, have also ended any speculation by telling the coaching staff that they were planning to remain in school as well.
"I want to thank Coach (Kevin) Ollie and the UConn coaching staff for their understanding and cooperation as my family and I needed space and time during this process of deciding what move was best for us," Napier said. "I want to thank my teammates for allowing me to lean on their shoulders when I needed some support."
Napier, who led the Huskies in scoring last season at 17.1 points per game, was named the District I (New England) Player of the Year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and to the District 5 (BIG EAST) first team by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
"I think Shabazz's decision is great for him and great for the university," said UConn head coach Kevin Ollie. "I believe that first and foremost, it will give him a chance to earn his degree, which is something I know he'll really cherish. "At the same time, he'll continue to hone his skills as a lead guard and contribute to us continuing the success of UConn basketball, but also he will keep cultivating the kind of atmosphere I want our student-athletes to be around. He was a big part of that with his leadership on and off the basketball court."
Besides his scoring, the 6-1 Napier also led the Huskies in assists (4.6), steals (2.0), and averaged 4.4 rebounds per game. He shot 44.1 percent overall, 39.8 percent from three-point range, and 81.9 percent from the foul line, while playing a team-leading 37.2 minutes per game.
Napier was arguably at his best in overtime, leading the Huskies to a school-record five overtime victories in seven overtime games, also a record for one season. In nine overtime periods (two double-overtime games), 45 minutes of playing time, he scored 55 points, shot 12-of-21 overall, 10-of-16 from three-point range, and 21-of-24 from the foul line. He was named the BIG EAST Player of the Week twice and was selected to the league's weekly Honor Roll five times.
Napier's statistics have improved in virtually every category in each of his three seasons at UConn. He had played 102 consecutive games since his freshman year until an injured right foot forced him to miss two games during the final week of this season. He returned to play in the Huskies' season finale against Providence, leading UConn to an overtime victory. Napier currently ranks 31st on UConn's all-time career scoring list with 1,239 points and 11th on the all-time assist list with 451.
"We think we have a great team for next season," Napier said, "and we're excited about playing for a conference championship and in the NCAA Tournament."
Napier, Boatright, and Daniels were the highest-scoring trio on any team in the BIG EAST. Boatright was second on the team in scoring (15.4) and assists (4.4), while Daniels was third in scoring (12.1) and tops in rebounding (5.5).
"I'm pleased that all three of them will continue their education next year and their development as young men," Ollie said. "As far as basketball is concerned, all of them improved last season and I expect that to continue through next year. We're all looking forward to what's ahead of us."