There are a slew of happy souls in Roxbury's Mission Hill neighborhood tonight, as one of its finest products ever, two-time national champion Shabazz Napier of UConn, was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft tonight.
The Miami Heat traded their first-round pick, No. 26 overall, and two second-round picks to the Charlotte Hornets to move up two spots to grab Napier with the 24th pick, a move that drew the praise of free agent-to-be LeBron James:
My favorite player in the draft! #Napier
— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 27, 2014
Napier starred first at Charlestown High, then Groton's Lawrence Academy, before earning two national championships at UConn, in 2011 and 2014. In this most recent national title run, UConn's fourth since 1999, Napier was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
Napier's native Mission Hill neighborhood is a revered breeding ground for some of the best point guards to come out of Boston, from Wayne Turner to Will Blalock to Tony Lee. In a 2010 interview with ESPNBoston.com, Napier talked about the mentoring of those past and present, most significantly Blalock:
"I grew up in the Mission Hill projects in Roxbury. I didn’t have a father, so I ended up staying with…he’s not really my brother, but I consider him my older brother, Will Blalock. I was the youngest of three kids, and my mother raised us on her own, sometimes with one job, sometimes with no job. It was tough, so I tried to make it easier for her by staying in the arms of someone who cares about me and is going to make me a better basketball player. I learned my skills basically from him, watching him play, watching my other older brothers play, learning from them. They had great IQ’s, they know how to play the game real well, and it was just a pleasure to learn from them. I had a group of guys I consider brothers who just took me underneath their arms…Will Blalock, Steve Hailey, Tony Lee, Will Dickerson, Shawn Davis, Kenneth Jackson. They’ve been big mentors."
Napier told ESPN's Brian Windhorst he hoped his arrival would help persuade James to return to Miami.
"I would hope so," Napier said. "He's one of the best players in the world. So if me going there helps him come back, it just betters our chances of being a complete team."
Napier told ESPN.com he's eager to prove himself in the NBA.
"No, the chip never leaves my shoulder. It will never leave my shoulder," Napier said. "That's what makes me who I am. And I was saying that not to belittle any other point guards. There's a reason why they're here. But I was just saying that because that's who I am. I wouldn't be Shabazz Napier if I wouldn't have said that. I believe it, and I'm going to prove it.
"What I always learned was that whatever you put in is what you're going to get out. If I don't put in the work, it's not going to show. So there's always a chip on my shoulder to prove to myself that I'm the best, and to do that, I've got to work hard."
Napier was one of several local prep school products to get selected tonight.
Missisauga, Ont. native Nik Stauskas, who starred at Southborough's St. Mark's School for two years before a decorated career at Michigan, was taken eighth overall by the Sacramento Kings. Stauskas was named First Team All-ISL in his senior season of 2011-12 after averaging 20 points, six rebounds and five assists in leading the Lions to the NEPSAC Class AA championship. He was named Big Ten Player of the Year this past season at Michigan.
One pick after Stauskas, Haverhill native Noah Vonleh was selected by the Charlotte Hornets. Vonleh was named to ESPNBoston.com's inaugural All-State Team in 2010-11 as a sophomore at Haverhill High, before moving on to a decorated career at New Hampton (N.H.) School. Vonleh was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year this past season at Indiana.
Three Brewster Academy (N.H.) products were selected in the first round. North Carolina State product T.J. Warren, a Durham, N.C. native who prepped at Brewster in 2011-12, went 14th overall to the Phoenix Suns. Xavier guard Semaj Christon, a Cincinnati native who also prepped at Brewster in 11-12, went in the second round to the Miami Heat.
Chesterton, Ind. native Mitch McGary, a power forward who spent two seasons at Brewster (2010-11, 11-12), was taken 21st overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder, out of Michigan. At one point in his career at Brewster, McGary was ranked the No. 2 overall high school recruit in the country.
New York native Russ Smith, who prepped for one year at South Kent (Conn.) in 2009-10, was also selected in the second round by the by the Philadelphia 76ers after a four-year career at Louisville that included a National Championship in 2013.