STORRS, Conn. (WTNH) — UConn fans welcomed home their champion men’s basketball team at a pep rally held inside Gampel Pavilion Tuesday night.
Senior guard Shabazz Napier, who was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player after a 22-point effort in the championship game Monday night, reflected on being in the same spot three years ago, when UConn won its third national title.
“I could remember when I was a freshman, we (were) right at this moment and Kemba Walker was talking and I was just in awe,” Napier said. “I was telling myself, I want to do this, I want to be where he’s at, I want to follow (those) footsteps.
“And when no one believed in us, you guys always did,” Napier said. “It’s such a bittersweet moment. Four years go by so fast — to end it on the national championship, bringing it back, it means so much to me.”
Kevin Ollie, who won it all on his first trip to the NCAA tournament as a head coach, spoke next.
“On senior night, I told ya’ll to save this date, didn’t I?” Ollie said. “The only reason I said that is because I knew what kind of team I had, I knew what kind of coaching staff I had, and I knew I had the greatest fans in America behind us so thank you so much.”
A couple hours earlier, a water cannon salute signaled the arrival home of the team at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks.
Players and staff were greeted coming off the plane by Gov. Dannel Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.
The team informally chatted through a fence with a few fans who showed for their arrival, and then got on board buses for the ride to Storrs.