UConn's Napier, the MOP, decries postseason ban

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Updated: 4/08/2014 1:21 am

Arlington, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Shabazz Napier wanted everyone's attention -- no small feat in AT&T Stadium, cavernous home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys.

But the star Connecticut senior guard had the benefit of having just won the national championship, after which he was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament.

"Ladies and gentlemen!" he yelled into a microphone. "You're looking at the hungry Huskies. This is what happens when you ban us!"

Napier was talking about UConn's 2013 postseason ban for low academic scores, which kept the Huskies out of the Big East Tournament and the NCAAs in Kevin Ollie's first season as head coach despite a 20-10 record.

Napier scored 22 points to lead UConn to a 60-54 win over Kentucky on Monday night for the program's fourth national title in 16 years.

Afterward, he said he was glad he was in position to say what he said.

"We're hungry and when you prevent us going to the postseason and it wasn't our fault, we worked from that day on," said Napier. "Coach Ollie told us it was a two-year plan and we believed."

They may have been the only ones.

Connecticut was the first No. 7 seed ever to make the national final, winning the title just a month after a 33-point loss to American Athletic Conference rival Louisville had them looking like anything but a contender.

Napier carried UConn the way Kemba Walker carried the 2011 Huskies to the championship (Napier was also on that team). In the tournament opener, he scored 19 of his 24 points after the first half and the Huskies survived Saint Joseph's in overtime.

In the Final Four on Saturday, Napier had an off-night offensively against No. 1 overall seed Florida but supplemented his 12 points with six assists and four steals.

Against Kentucky, he barked orders at teammates, made three steals and knocked down four 3-pointers, including one that killed an 8-0 run in the second half that had pulled Kentucky within one.

Later, Napier said he had been trying to think of the right thing to say when it was all over. What came out was his "This is what happens when you ban us!" cry.

"I'm being real humble and not trying to be cocky," he said. "When you believe something so much, you understand what may happen in certain situations. I told myself if I was on that podium I was going to say that.

"I'm just so happy that I was in that position, because these guys worked so hard -- the coaches, the managers, our trainers, and last but not least, the players. We worked so hard for this. We didn't want to lose it. We worked so hard. So here we go, celebrating."

Napier said the Huskies weren't looking for "revenge" for their postseason ban, but wanted to show what they were capable of.

"We had faith in each other, and we are here," he said. "We won the whole thing. We didn't listen to any doubters. We just went out there and did what we had to do."

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