Shabazz Napier has won many fans over his time at UConn. One of them is Larry Brown.
“[UConn’s] point guard is playing as well as anybody in the country,” Brown said, on a conference call with reports on Friday. “I can’t imagine anybody on any team that has such a positive effect on his team as Napier has on Connecticut.”
Brown, 73, the Hall of Famer who has taken on the challenge of building something at Southern Methodist – and loving it – will be trying to stop Napier and the Huskies at Gampel Pavilion this Sunday. The Mustangs beat UConn in Dallas on Jan. 4.
“I don’t think there’s anything I can take from that game that would be helpful,” Brown said. “They didn’t play their best. It was our first game at Moody [Coliseum] and a lot of positive things happened because of the support we had.”
SMU is 21-6, and played itself into the AP Top 25 for the first time in 29 years. But all of those losses have come on the road, including a shocker at Temple last Sunday.
“We’re proud of ourselves,” he said, “ … but in order for us to really be good, we have to prove that on the road against a quality team. Every game is like a tournament game for us, we’re trying to have a resume people will look at and appreciate our body of work. With the attention we’re getting, there’s a lot of responsibility now because of hat, I don’t know if we understand that. We’re a young team.”
Brown looks forward to having his young players walk into Gampel Pavilion, “and see all the banners, see the body of work that program has done.”
As for UConn, Brown repeated that he does not enjoy coaching against Kevin Ollie, who played for him with the Sixers. The Huskies’ big men, he said, are playing much better now – they were no factor on Jan. 4.
“… But when you have great guards, you have a chance to be a great team,” he said, “and they have great guards. When you have the best player in the country you have a chance to do great things, and they have a kid I think is as good as anybody in the country.”