UConn never stopped believing

"Me and Shabazz got a lot of heart and we're tough," Boatright said. "When you try to get physical with us, we get physical right back at you. We're not going to back down to nobody."

Napier and Boatright, Boatright and Napier; they are the dynamic duo that made UConn run. To win this title, the Huskies needed more from others --  DeAndre Daniels' emergence offensively, Amida Brimah and  Phillip Nolan's interior defense -- but it is those two, the heart of the Huskies, who are also the team's soul.

They are small and tough, imbued by a crazy sense of self and a lifetime of survival.

Napier won a national championship his freshman year, the understudy to the great Kemba Walker.

But when it was time to assume the starring role, Napier struggled. He wasn't ready to be a leader and, frankly, didn't know how to be one. He shut himself out from his teammates, sniped at them for their behavior and generally endured a miserable sophomore season.

He survived only to come back for his junior year and learn the NCAA would sanction his team for a poor APR performance, there was no more Big East and his coach was retiring.

He could have left. Plenty of his teammates did, transferring to other schools where the dream of a postseason still existed.

Napier didn't.

"There was no need to leave," his mother, Carmen Velasquez, said. "He came to UConn, why would he leave? He loves basketball too much. This is a kid who slept with a basketball since he was 5. He was never leaving."

And now he has a national championship sandwich, one from his first season and one from his last.

"Wow, wow, this is just unbelievable," Velasquez said while she watched her son celebrate on the podium with his teammates. "Freshman year and senior year, we'll take it."

A single mom to three, Velasquez raised her kids to believe they could do anything. There were days she couldn't pay the bills, days she wasn't sure how she was going to get a job, but she never stopped fighting. All three will have college degrees when Napier graduates this spring.

Velasquez is a tough cookie, but all of this -- the title and the celebration -- it all was just too much for her and for her son.

That's why, while his teammates lined up to cut the nets, Napier took a moment with Velasquez. The two hugged and swayed silently, their shoulders heaving as they cried openly. Napier kissed his mother twice on the forehead, before finally prying himself away.

"It's such a feeling, such a feeling," he said, his face still wet with tears. "This is what it's all about. I love my mother to death. She always believed in me, and all I ever wanted to do was make her proud of me."

Tanesha Boatright was proud of her son as she stood holding his hand in the middle of the court -- proud not so much because of what he accomplished, because she believed he'd do that.

Proud because of what he'd been through.

Genetics said Boatright and Arin Williams were cousins; reality turned them into brothers. Williams' mother died in childbirth, and Tanesha Boatright took him in, raising the two boys side by side. Williams was just 20 when two men shot him in a restaurant bathroom, intent on robbing him.

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