MEMPHIS — Shabazz Napier isn't coming to Memphis to pick up individual honors, he did not stay four years at UConn for that.
"I don't care," he said, laughing, when asked about the American Athletic Conference awards. "I'm not into individual awards, you all know that. I'm invested in trying to win a championship."
But along the way, a few individual honors are nice. On Tuesday, Napier was a unanimous choice for the All-AAC's first team. UConn freshman Amida Brimah was named to the league's all-rookie team.
In a guard-heavy conference, the coaches voted four backcourt players onto the team, with Louisville's Russ Smith, Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick and Southern Methodist's Nic Moore joining Napier. The lone center/forward was Louisville's Montrezl Harrell.
UConn begins play in the AAC tournament Thursday against host Memphis at the FedExForum a bit after 9 p.m.
Napier, Smith and Kilpatrick, leading candidates for player of the year, which will be announced Wednesday, were unanimous choices. All are possible first-team All-Americans.
Napier is in the AAC's top 15 in scoring (second, 17.8), rebounding (13th, 6.0), defensive rebounds (fifth, 5.0), assists (second, 5.2), free throw percentage (second, 87.7), steals (third, 1.8), three-point shooting percentage (seventh, 40.4), three-pointers made (sixth, 63), assists-to-turnover ratio (sixth, 1.9) and minutes played (third, 34.8).
"When you play Connecticut," SMU coach Larry Brown said, "Napier just does so many things for his team."
Napier, who was on the AAC preseason first team, is a finalist for all the major player of the year awards, the Wooden, Naismith and Oscar Robertson awards, and the Cousy Award for top point guard.
The AAC's second team, for which coaches chose six players, comprised Central Florida's Isaiah Sykes, Houston's TaShawn Thomas, Cincinnati's Justin Jackson, Memphis' Shaq Goodwin and Joe Jackson and SMU's Markus Kennedy.
Brimah, the 7-foot freshman from Ghana, became a starter in late December and started 15 of 18 conference games.
Although still a raw talent, he is a natural shot blocker and made a major impact in that area. Brimah, although limited to 15.3 minutes a game, was third in the league with 2.5 blocks, trailing only Jackson (2.9) and Thomas (2.7).
Brimah averaged 4.0 points and 2.8 rebounds, but was more productive in the AAC (5.1, 3.4).
Coaches who faced UConn in January, and again later in the season, were impressed by Brimah's development, so his selection was no surprise.
"He is getting better by the minute," Brown said on Feb. 23.
Said Louisville's Rick Pitino: "He has gotten a lot better, and he's going to be a great one when it's all said and done."
Brimah's breakthrough game came against Central Florida on Jan. 11, when he had 20 points and eight rebounds.
The all-rookie team was filled with big men, including Memphis' Austin Nichols, a favorite for rookie of the year honors, and John Egbunu and Chris Perry, both of South Florida. The lone guard was Louisville's Terry Rozier.
AAC individual awards to be presented Wednesday include player the year, rookie of the year, defensive player of the year, scholar athlete of the year, coach of the year, most improved player, sixth man and sportsmanship awards.
Napier was also named District I player of the year by U.S. Basketball Writers for the second year in a row. Ryan Boatright and Quinnipiac's Ike Azotam were named to the 10-player All District I team, which covers New England.
Hamilton At Barclays
Daniel Hamilton, UConn's highest-touted incoming recruit, will play at the Jordan Brand Classic, a national high school all-star game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 18 at 7 p.m.
Hamilton, a 6-7 wing player, plays for St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Calif., and committed to UConn in May. He signed a nonbinding financial aid agreement in November, but has continued to say he is solidly committed to UConn. He attended the Huskies' game against Maryland at the Barclays Center on Nov. 8.
The Jordan Brand Classic features 26 of the top high school players from throughout the country.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun