UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Guard Shabazz Napier, like other members of the current Connecticut basketball team, was a spectator Saturday night at the Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic Charity All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena. And he was still wearing the walking boot that has been protecting his right foot since June, when he withdrew from the tryouts for the Puerto Rico Olympic team.
Napier, UConn's junior point guard, was selected to the Puerto Rico team but he returned to his home in Roxbury, Mass., due to "symptomatic discomfort" in that right foot. Napier said he'll be wearing the boot another 2 ½ to 3 weeks before the UConn medical staff re-evaluates the injury.
"It feels great actually," Napier said. "Everything is going smoothly. I'm way ahead, so that's always a good thing. Right now I'm just rehabbing. I haven't touched a ball yet. I just want to be 100 percent before I start – no injuries, no sore knees, nothing like that."
Napier had foot and knee problems all last season. He withdrew from the national team rather than risk another season like that.
"I just told myself I couldn't push it," he said. "The Olympics are always going to be there. I only have two more years of college and I just want to go out there and be 100 percent for UConn."
LAMB FEELING CONFIDENT
Guard Jeremy Lamb, who left UConn after his sophomore season and was the 12th pick overall in the NBA Draft, feels he had a very productive summer league. Lamb, now with the Houston Rockets, averaged 20 points and 4.4 rebounds and word is the Rockets were very pleased.
"I feel pretty good," Lamb said. "I think I could have done more. The good thing was I was learning and learning about my teammates and coaches. I think it was productive and I used it well. I was able to knock down some shots and it was just a good overall experience."
|Chris Smith waiting his turn [Ken Davis]|
WALKER TIRED OF LOSING
It's hard to go from the NCAA national championship to a 7-59 record in the NBA, but that's what happened to Kemba Walker as a member of the Charlotte Bobcats. Asked what he is looking forward to most in his second year in the NBA, Walker said, "Winning." Did the season drive him crazy? "Of course," he said. But Walker still has fun and wears that patented smile when he plays the game. He hit 7 three-pointers on the way to 38 points Saturday. . . . Chris Smith's wife was unable to attend the game because she is expecting a child. Calhoun's game is held every two years and Smith said his wife was also pregnant when the 2010 game was held. Sounds like a trend. . . . Dan Cyrulik, who ended his UConn career in 1992, was asked how the Huskies will get through a season with a postseason ban – which will be the case in 2013. "That's a really tough one," Cyrulik said. "I think knowing coach, the family team chemistry that they build with the guys that are staying, will get them through this. It's a tough thing to overcome. They've lost a lot of the incentive there. It makes it harder. . . . I think they're up to the challenge." . . . Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell, a former UConn player and assistant coach, said his team will be playing the Huskies again in 2012-13. UConn's non-conference schedule has not been released yet. Pikiell said the game was set as Stony Brook's opener on Nov. 13 until the Seawolves got an invitation to play on ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon. Stony Brook will play at 6 a.m. at Rider that day. "UConn and Vermont were nice enough to switch, so we're playing [UConn] Nov. 25," Pikiell said. . . . During player introductions at Mohegan Sun Arena it seemed the crowd of 7,241 gave the biggest ovation to Ray Allen – just slightly more enthusiastic than the applause for Kemba Walker. Allen, who last month left the Celtics and signed with rival Miami, came on the court just before the team photo was taken. He didn't have time for a full interview, just enough time to say hi. I asked Allen if he is happy with his decision and he said, "Very happy," as he trotted off. Allen will hold a camp at E.O. Smith High School in Storrs Aug. 11-12. For more information go to www.rayallencamp.com.
INSIDE THE BOX
Calhoun's All-Star Game does a pretty decent job of duplicating the NBA All-Star Game. By that we mean there is no defense played in either classic. And after six of these, the fans have come to expect a lot of fun followed by about five minutes of serious basketball at the end when the players become competitive and decide they want to win.
Saturday the White team defeated the Blue squad 109-107 in "sudden death." The game was tied after regulation and Jerome Dyson, who scored 15 points, sent everyone home when he stripped the ball from Rudy Gay (20) and scored.
Walker led all scorers with 38 and was named MVP from the White team. Walker was 14 of 27 from the field, including seven three-pointers. In all, 36 former players were back for the game. Kevin Ollie coached instead of playing. Stanley Robinson, John Gwynn, Rip Hamilton, and Ray Allen also didn't play. Jeremy Lamb had 19 points for the Blue and Rashad Anderson 16.
The eye-opening stat for Anderson was his 23 shots attempted (Walker took 27 and 16 of those were threes). Anderson was 6-for-23 from the field and 4-for-19 from three. The guy never saw a shot he didn't like. A.J. Price was 0-for-10 from the field. The surprise scorer was Gavin Edwards with 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Edwards also had 10 rebounds – one behind the game-high 11 from Ed Nelson