MEMPHIS, Tenn. (March 12, 2014) — After an outstanding season in which he led UConn to 12 conference victories, senior guard Shabazz Napier (Roxbury, Mass.) was named Wednesday as the American Athletic Conference 2014 Player of the Year.
Napier, who was recognized Tuesday as a unanimous selection to the All-Conference first team, was given the Player of the Year award by Commissioner Mike Aresco at the American Athletic Conference awards luncheon, the kickoff to the four-day American 2014 Championship, held at the FedExForum. The awards are decided by a vote of the league's 10 head coaches, who are not allowed to vote for their own players.
Napier is the first UConn player since Hasheem Thabeet in 2008-09 to be named a conference Player of the Year. It marks the eighth time UConn has had a Player of the Year, all previously in the Big East Conference — Donyell Marshall (1993-94), Ray Allen (1995-96), Richard Hamilton (1997-98), Hamilton again (1998-99), Caron Butler (2001-02), Emeka Okafor (2003-04), Thabeet, and Napier.
In a conference loaded with nationally-acclaimed guards, no American Athletic Conference player has been more valuable to his team this season than Napier, who leads the 24-7 Huskies in scoring (17.8), rebounding (6.0), assists (5.2), steals (1.8) and minutes played (34.8).
In conference games, the 6-1 standout finished the regular season ranked second in the league in scoring (19.3), third in assists (4.7), second in free throw percentage (.901), fifth in steals (1.8), fifth in three-pointers made (2.3), fifth in defensive rebounds (4.8), fourth in minutes played (35.1), 14th in three-point shooting percentage (.360), and 13th in overall rebounding (5.7).
Napier was named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Week five times and to the conference's weekly Honor Roll nine times. He recorded six doubles-doubles this season, including the second triple-double of his career on Nov. 11 against Yale. He has had 10 games of 20 points or more, two of at least 30 points, and has led the Huskies in scoring 18 times.
Napier — already named the U.S. Basketball Writers Association District I Player of the Year for the second consecutive season and a USBWA first-team All-American — is on the final watch list of nearly every major national award, including the John Wooden Award, the Naismith Trophy, the Oscar Robertson Trophy, the Senior CLASS Award, and the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award.
Cincinnati, which went 15-3 in conference play to earn a share of the first American Athletic Conference regular season-season championship, won three individual awards Wednesday. Head coach Mick Cronin was named the American Coach of the Year, while forward Justin Jackson was named the Defensive Player of the Year. Guard Sean Kilpatrick, who led the conference in points per game (22.2), was awarded the Sportsmanship Award.
Memphis also won multiple awards, as forward Austin Nichols earned Rookie of the Year honors and guard Michael Dixon Jr. was named the Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 13.3 points off the bench in all 18 conference games. Louisville forward Montezl Harris was tabbed the Most Improved Player and Temple forward Jimmy McDonnell was named the Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the conference’s academics affairs committee.
Napier and the Huskies, seeded No. 4 in the tournament, will begin play in The American 2014 Championship with a quarterfinal game on Thursday night (9 p.m. EDT) against No. 5 Memphis. The game will be televised by ESPNU.
2014 American Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Honors
Player of the Year
Shabazz Napier, G, UConn
Coach of the Year
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
Rookie of the Year
Austin Nichols, F, Memphis
Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Jimmy McDonnell, F, Temple
Defensive Player of the Year
Justin Jackson, F, Cincinnati
Sixth Man of the Year
Michael Dixon Jr., G, Memphis
Most Improved Player
Montrezl Harrell, F, Louisville
Sean Kilpatrick, G, Cincinnati