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Napier's a first-team Big East selection

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published March 11. 2013 4:00AM
Nam Y. Huh/AP photo
UConn guard Shabazz Napier celebrates after making a 3-pointer against DePaul on Feb. 23 at Rosemont, Ill.
Calhoun lands a spot on the all-rookie team

During Big East media day last October, Shabazz Napier was asked about being named preseason All-Big East second team.

"That doesn't mean anything…," Napier said. "I really don't care about individual recognition. I'm all about my team."

Napier, a junior guard, probably had a similar reaction Sunday after earning his first All-Big East first team honor. He's the 16th UConn player to achieve first team status.

His unselfish and inspired play helped lead UConn to a successful season, as the Huskies reached the 20-win mark and finished with a winning Big East record (10-8) for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

"I am extremely proud of Shabazz and very happy that he's been recognized by the Big East coaches for the way he played this season," coach Kevin Ollie said. "As I said after Saturday's game, he has evolved as a young man and become a leader. He's a great person and one of the smartest players I've been around."

Big East coaches also voted UConn freshman Omar Calhoun to the league's All-Rookie team.

Napier, a team captain, showed his value to the Huskies in Saturday's season finale. After UConn lost two straight with an injured Napier on the sidelines, he returned to the starting lineup against Providence and contributed 16 points, a team-high tying eight rebounds, four assists and four steals in a 63-59 overtime win.

"He's our leader on the court," sophomore DeAndre Daniels said Saturday. "When we get rattled, going up and down, he settles everybody down and that's what we've been missing the last few games. It was pretty big that we had him."

A 6-foot-1 guard, Napier led the team in scoring (17.1) and assists (4.6) and ranked second in rebounds per game at 4.4. He was tied for fourth in the Big East in steals (2.0), seventh in assists and third in 3-pointers (68). He converted 44.1 percent from the field, 81.9 from the line and a team-leading 39.8 from 3-point land.

He was Mr. Big Shot, sinking more huge baskets than any Husky. He was especially clutch during a school-record seven overtime games, including two double overtimes. UConn went 5-2 in those situations.

In the nine overtime sessions, Napier played all 45 minutes, scoring 55 points and converting 12-of-21 shots, 10-of-16 3-pointers and 21 of 24 free throws.

A 6-5 guard, Calhoun had a terrific freshman season, averaging 11.1 points and 3.9 rebounds. He tied for second on the team with 43 3-pointers. He started every game until a sprained right wrist sidelined him for the season finale.

Calhoun is the 27th UConn player to earn a spot on the All-Rookie team.

Individual awards for top coach, player, rookie and scholar-athlete will be announced on Tuesday, the first day of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Georgetown's Otto Porter, Jr., the only unanimous selection to the All-Big East first team, is the heavy favorite to win league player-of-the-year. St. John's JaKarr Sampson is the front-runner for top rookie. Marquette's Buzz Williams and Georgetown's John Thompson III are leading candidates for top coach.

g.keefe@theday.com

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Big East men's basketball honors

First Team

Shabazz Napier, UConn, G, Jr.

Otto Porter Jr., Georgetown, F, So.

Gorgui Dieng, Louisville, C, Jr.

Russ Smith, Louisville, G, Jr.

Jack Cooley, Notre Dame, F, Sr.

Bryce Cotton, Providence, G, Jr.

Second Team

Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati, G, Jr.

Vander Blue, Marquette, G, Sr.

Jerian Grant, Notre Dame, G, Jr.

Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse, G, So.

C.J. Fair, Syracuse, F, Jr.

Third Team

Markel Starks, Georgetown, G, Jr.

Peyton Siva, Louisville, G, Sr.

Tray Woodall, Pittsburgh, G, Sr.

Brandon Triche, Syracuse, G, Sr.

JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova, F, So.

Honorable Mention

Davante Gardner, Marquette, F, Jr.

Kadeem Batts, Providence, F, Jr.

JaKarr Sampson, St. John's, F, Fr.

Fuquan Edwin, Seton Hall, F, Jr.

All-Rookie Team

Omar Calhoun, UConn, G, Fr.

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown, G, Fr.

Steven Adams, Pittsburgh, C, Fr.

Chris Obekpa, St. John's, C, Fr.

JaKarr Sampson, St. John's, F, Fr.

Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova, G, Fr.

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