Roxbury Native Napier is Dreaming Green

CHICAGO – The playgrounds are where basketball dreams are made. For Shabazz Napier, those dreams were to one day play for the Boston Celtics.

Napier, who was born in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury, is closer to that dream than ever before. After completing an incredible four-year career down the road at the University of Connecticut, the guard is now preparing for the NBA Draft.

Marcus Smart

Shabazz Napier, a native of Roxbury, Mass., won two titles during his career at UConn.
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That preparation has taken him to Chicago for this week’s NBA Draft Combine. Napier is electing not to work out at the Combine, but he is participating in interview sessions with media members and team front office personnel. The local product was asked on Thursday about his Celtics fandom, and he was not shy about confessing his love for the most storied franchise in the history of basketball.

“Yeah, I’m from Boston. When you’re from Boston you’ve gotta go with the Celtics,” he said. “… I’m a Boston kid. Home of the Champions: Celtics, Red Sox, Bruins and Patriots. When you grow up in Boston, that’s who you root for.”

And that’s who you dream of playing for.

Napier is in the midst of trying to secure a gig with any NBA team. With that in mind, the 22-year-old made a smart move by not necessarily claiming that Boston is the only team he wants to play for. He did, however, note that he made plenty of big shots for the C’s on the playground back in the day.

“Of course you had aspirations as a kid, knocking down that game-winning shot for your team, and I probably had a lot of those game-winning shots for the Boston Celtics,” said Napier. “You definitely had aspirations but you never really thought it would come to real life.”

Those aspirations are now just five weeks away from potentially becoming Napier's real life at the Draft. The Celtics head into the Draft armed with two first-round selections. They are guaranteed to have a top-eight pick in and also own the rights to the 17th overall selection. It’s conceivable that the two-time NCAA champion, 2014 Final Four Most Outstanding Player and 2014 Consensus first team All-American could be chosen with one of those selections.

And if he is?

“It would be crazy. It would be really, really ironic,” Napier said with a chuckle. “I’m from Boston. I grew up a Boston fan. To wear white and green… that would be insane.

“There’s a lot of history, a lot of tradition there. A lot of pressure, but I’m good with pressure. That’s nothing. I’m not too worried about that.”

Why would he be? Napier grew up hitting game-winners for the Celtics. They didn’t fall through the nets at TD Garden, but they did make a splash right down the road on the playgrounds in Roxbury.

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