The most oft-discussed storyline of the new UConn basketball season isn't Ryan Boatright's suspension, Andre Drummond's surprisingly sluggish start or Jeremy Lamb's effortless dominance.
Instead, it's sophomore guard Shabazz Napier's new hairstyle that has generated the most conversation.
Napier finally shared the unexpectedly poignant story behind his rat-tail with UConn beat writers after Sunday's victory over Coppin State in hopes that he wouldn't have to take so much flak from disapproving opposing fans in the stands at games. The rat-tail is a tribute to the late Ernest Likely, a friend of Napier's who was murdered "awhile back" in their crime-ridden hometown of Roxbury, Mass.
"I might cut it soon because a lot of people, teams may say something funny about it," Napier said. "It irritates me because they don't understand where I'm coming from. The [Coppin State] fan base [Sunday] was talking about it so much. It irritates me so much. I'm doing this out of someone I love so much and died.
"It took a lot out of me, it was one of the hardest things of my life," he continued. "I've been contemplating whether or not I should cut it. Teams try to make fun of it. Knowing myself, I might get ticked off one day and get in someone's face about it. It's something real deep. I don't really appreciate a lot of people talking bad about it, but you know what — not a lot of people understand where I'm coming from, so I can't really blame them."
Now that Napier has spread the word about the reason behind his new hairstyle, hopefully hecklers will be a bit more sensitive. Either way, however, Napier is likely to make opposing fans pay.
The 6-foot sophomore delivered college basketball's second triple-double of the season against Coppin State, scoring 22 points, dishing out 13 assists and grabbing 12 rebounds. He continues to thrive as UConn's new floor general in the absence of departed star Kemba Walker, increasing his averages on the season to 18 points, 6.3 assists and 6.0 rebounds