June 26, 2014
BROOKLYN, N.Y. - UConn All-American guard Shabazz Napier (Roxbury, Mass.) became the 19th former Husky to be drafted in the first round Thursday night when the Charlotte Hornets selected him with the 24th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. A few minutes later, however, the Hornets traded Napier's rights to the Miami Heat, the NBA Eastern Conference champion. DeAndre Daniels (Los Angeles, Calif.) became the second Husky selected in the draft one round later when he was chosen by the Toronto Raptors with the 37th pick.
Napier, the Most Outstanding Player of the 2014 Final Four after leading UConn to the fourth National Championship in school history, attended the draft, held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"It's a blessing," said Napier after he was drafted. "I'm going to compete my tail off like I always do. I always have a chip on my shoulder."
Napier is the 39th UConn player picked overall in the modern-day (post-1964) NBA draft, the 27th since Jim Calhoun became head coach in 1986-87, and the first since Kevin Ollie took over as head coach in 2012-13. All of UConn's 19 first-rounders have come since 1990, when Tate George was selected with the 22nd pick. Napier is the first UConn senior to be drafted in the first round since Hilton Armstrong in 2006.
Napier, a four-year UConn player, ranks fourth on the Huskies' all-time scoring list (1,959 points), third in assists (646), first in games played (143), first in free throws made (509), and second in three-pointers made (260) and steals (251) .
This season, Napier led the Huskies in scoring (18.0), assists (4.9), free throw shooting (.870), and minutes played (35.1), and was second in rebounding (5.9). A consensus first team All-American, he was named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, and won the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award.
In UConn's run through the NCAA tourney, Napier was outstanding, averaging 21.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and shooting a stellar .939 from the foul line (31 of 33).
The Heat's interest in Napier has been well-known since Heat star LeBron James tweeted after the NCAA Tournament that there's was no way any team should draft a point guard before Napier. In recent days, rumors have been strong that the Heat were trying to move up in the draft to be able to get Napier.
"It's something special to know that one of the best players in the world thinks about you and appreciates your talent," said Napier. "That's something I'm so humble for."
Daniels improved every year during his time at Storrs and as a junior he recorded career highs in points (13.1) and rebounds (6.0.). The UConn forward was second on the team with 54 blocks last season and was named to the All-Final Four Team after averaging 14.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in Connecticut's final two games in the NCAA Tournament.
Daniels, who led the Huskies in scoring 11 times in his final year at UConn, became the first player since Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony in 2003 to score 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a national semifinal game in the Huskies' win over top-ranked Florida. He started 80 games during his career at Connecticut, averaging 9.6 and 4.6 rebounds per game.
"It's a dream come true," said Daniels after being picked by the Raptors. "When I heard my name I just started crying and hugging my family."