Shabazz Napier goes from Huskies to Hornets to Heat

Connecticut's Shabazz Napier, right, poses for photos with Connecticut's Shabazz Napier, right, poses for photos with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the 24th overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets during the 2014 NBA draft on Thursday, June 26, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Kathy Willens

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Shabazz Napier took his seat in the Barclays Center media room shortly after getting drafted Thursday night. A turquoise Charlotte Hornets hat was placed on the table in front of him.

"I'm not playing for this team,'' he said.

A lot had happened during the walk there.

Napier, a point guard out of UConn with two NCAA championships to his name, was selected 24th overall by the Hornets in the 2014 NBA draft. The Miami Heat, however, promptly acquired him by trading the 26th and 55th picks, as well as a future second-round pick.

"I'm just happy I got drafted,'' Napier said before comparing the "winning attitude'' of the Huskies and Heat. "When you compete at that high level, you want to win every single game, and that winning attitudes comes in the first day you arrive to that organization.''

LeBron James showed his support for the newcomer, tweeting "My favorite player in the draft! #Napier'' after the trade.

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James, who opted out of his contract earlier this week and will test the free-agent market, openly supported Napier on Twitter through the Huskies' 2014 NCAA run. Napier previously met James at the latter's basketball camp. Despite their friendship, it's unclear whether the two will play on the same team next season.

Napier said he plans to always play as if he hasn't made the roster. He believes that attitude has been a winning formula in the past and doesn't want to change it now.

It's the kind of resolve that Leo Papile, coach and founder of the Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC) has come to expect of Napier, a native of Roxbury, Mass.

Papile coached Napier during the 2009-10 season on BABC, a premier New England AAU program, which boasts pro alumni such as Philadelphia 76ers teammates Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams.

"Because of his determination and his motor, I think he'll be a longtime NBA point guard,'' Papile, who spent 15 years with the Boston Celtics in scouting and basketball operations, said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I think he fits the role of a baseball relief pitcher. He can play for 16 minutes on a successful team.

"He's a competitive kid and is built for pro basketball. It's not for everybody. Some guys peter out, they just can't compete over that period of time [82 regular-season games], but he can compete every day. The UConn stuff -- it's great, it's historic -- but his NBA pedigree will be determined by what he is, not what he did in college.''

Napier says there is a chip on his shoulder, but it's a badge of pride and part of his identity.

"There's always a chip on my shoulder to prove to myself that I'm the best,'' he said. "And to do that, I've got to work hard.''

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