Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Not Too Shazzy

Amherst, Mass.–The Metro Boston Select AAU were winning, but Shabazz Napier wasn’t happy.

A superior team which should have jumped out of the gates sizzling, Metro Boston was playing down to the low-tide level of their opponents–a less talented Rhode Island Hawks squad in 17U action.

Metro Boston was going through the motions, looking lackadaisical and out of sync at the start of the first half.

It was a typical AAU Saturday at the campus of Amherst College and Holyoke Community, part of the BasketBull Spring Classic.

The playing field was about as balanced as a seesaw with Michael Moore perching his rotund, Mr. Koolaid man-like frame on one side and Jessica Alba positioning her slender, sexy, and smokeshow body on the other.

Most of Boston Metro’s early chemistry problems can be chalked up to a patchwork group that’s been playing in different systems throughout the spring and winter.

“It wasn’t really flowing for us,” said Napier, a smurf-sized guard who won't let his skinny legs fool you.

“Ike (Azotam), one of our best players, got in a little late and we were all kind of rusty.”

Then, Napier–a 5-foot-10 point guard– channeled the anger that surfaced following his team's sluggish start.

How, you ask?

Simply setting the nets ablaze to the tune of 6 three-pointers, giving the Metro Select a sizable edge they wouldn't relinquish.

He drained a three-pointer from the parking lot. Then he drilled another just a foot closer in. He was dialing in from a different area code.

After escaping a defender off the dribble and kicking it to a big man who got free down low, Napier, Azotam and company had finally seized an insurmountable lead.

A few moments later, Napier bagged another long three-pointer, leaving a severely undersized Hawks squad scratching their heads.

That shot, a microcosm of Napier’s lights-out weekend in the 413-landscape, broke the game open.

“At the end of the first half, that’s when we turned it on,” said Napier.

Metro Boston continued to pour it on, getting the kinks out. They ended up pasting Rhode Island with a good old 86-61 walloping.

After the game, Rhode Island players congratulated Napier.

Some first-class players gave Napier positive pats on the back, others lauded him for turning the court into his personal resume reel.

Napier will do that to a team.

On Sunday, he went off in a head-spinning, 50-point outburst (the tournament’s new high-water mark).

He scorched the nets at a frenetic, breakneck pace that left jaws littered all over the Holyoke Community hardwood.

Lights out.

“He’s definitely our facilitator,” said Azotam, a skilled 6-foot-7 forward who will take the prep school route next season.

“He can do it all. He’s calm under pressure and he gets us our shots.”

The kid from Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass., is also getting his own shot off. He's emerged as a considerable ratchet man.

He averaged 28.5 points during state championships. He found his stroke at the AAU nationals, bagging 10 threes one game.

Turning in performances that have drawn rave reviews, the spring season has vaulted Napier into the northeast’s upper-echelon of high school ballers.

This is while he's still just a stringbean sophomore, let's not forget.

A laundry-list of Division-I coaches are starting to bust out their credit cards and pay attention, especially those from the Big East.

Napier rattled off a number of schools who are expressing interest in him.

Memphis, Providence, Seton Hall, South Florida, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Alabama, Tulane and Virginia Commonwealth are all potential Division-I suitors.