Shabazz Napier won two national championships at Connecticut, capturing one as a freshman and another as a senior this past season. He went on to become the 24th pick by Charlotte in this year’s NBA Draft but was traded on draft night to Miami. Napier is now looking to learn the NBA game at the Orlando Pro Summer League.
Q: What’s it like to go from national championship game to your next competitive game is summer league?
A: That’s the biggest thing. I haven’t played competitively. I’m with a new team, and it’s kind of tough because I have to understand my teammates on the fly.
After struggling in your debut down here, what was the difference that allowed you to bounce back with a much better performance in your second game?
Losing helps you understand how to prepare for the next game. I was just looking at the tape, figuring out things that I should have done in the first game. I was nervous. I usually never get nervous before games or during games. That first game was just one of those games, I guess.
When is the last time before Saturday that you were nervous going into a basketball game?
I don’t know. That’s crazy. I don’t know. That’s actually the first time I’ve ever been super nervous during the game. I always have the jitters before every single game. That’s just common basketball stuff because you want to play as well as you should. But that was the first time I was actually nervous during the game. I can’t even remember back to my freshman days when we were going through the runs that I was nervous. So it was definitely something new for me and definitely a great learning experience.
What did having Kevin Ollie as your coach for the last few seasons do for you in terms of helping you prepare for this level?
Each coach that I had, starting with coach (Jim) Calhoun and coach Ollie, has helped me. Coach Ollie has been in this position before, explaining to us how tough it is. This is a man’s game, especially when you get on this level. He’s been through a lot of trials and tribulations, and the experiences that he shared with us helped me understand that every opportunity I have I’ve got to take advantage of it.
There was some thought in Oklahoma City that because Kevin Ollie played with the Thunder, because the Thunder had three UConn players on its team last year, they might take you with that 21st pick. Did you think for a moment that they might take you there?
Yeah, I did. But they went a different direction. But I’m happy to be with the Miami Heat. It’s not sorrow or anything I have against any teams that didn’t pick me. I’m happy where I am, and I’m glad to be where I am.