Ryan Boatright learns to appreciate teamwork over personal stats
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's Shabazz Napier who has the catchy name and is drawing all the comparisons to Kemba Walker after leading Connecticut (30-8) to its Final Four date with No. 1 Florida (36-2) Saturday night. But opposing coaches know the danger in focusing on Napier is that Ryan Boatright can do just as much damage if he goes unchecked.
Although he's barely 6 feet tall, it was Boatright who came out of high school as an explosive scorer who averaged 33 points per game. After three seasons at Napier's side, he's grown accustomed to playing a key supporting role.
"In high school, I was always 'Batman,' " Boatright said Friday. "I always had somebody else that was called a sidekick. When you're going into a situation like this with better players than you, like Shabazz is the man right now, he's 'Batman.' You've got to understand that. There can't be no jealousy and selfishness. It's all about the team."
Boatright's recent emergence came after a gloomy time following the shooting death of a close cousin, Arin Williams, on Jan. 14 in Aurora, Ill., Boatright's hometown. "It was real hard," Boatright said. "I wasn't sleeping at all. I love basketball, I care about it, but at that point in time, I didn't care. But a few weeks after that, I started getting over it, and I started thinking and knowing he would have wanted me to continue what I was doing and contributing to the team."
The joy has returned for Boatright, who admits he had to grow up and adjust to criticism from coach Kevin Ollie and predecessor Jim Calhoun.
"When you're in high school and you're scoring 50 or 60 points, averaging 33, you think you know it all," Boatright said. "I was coachable, but I always had something to say back . . . Coach Ollie said, 'Open your heart and open your ears so you can get better,' and I just started doing that."