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ARLINGTON, Texas – Ryan Boatright might as well go by Robin.

He certainly doesn't seem to mind his role as Shabazz Napier's sidekick, the other half of Connecticut's dynamic backcourt – and often the afterthought.

"It don't bother me," Boatright, a junior, said. "I've got good friends and family. They keep my head on right. Going through high school – actually, all through my life – I was always Batman. I always had someone else they were calling the sidekick. Your time will come.

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"Shabazz is the man right now, he's Batman. But when he goes to the league, he's not going to be Batman. His time will come around. You've got to understand that. There can't be jealousy or selfishness."

It helps, too, when Batman and Robin get along as well as these two do. Boatright said he and Napier began developing their terrific on-court chemistry three years ago when Boatright first arrived in Storrs, Conn. Napier, a year older, had just spent a season under the tutelage of Kemba Walker and had been part of a national championship team.

"It took a little bit of time for us to start clicking, jelling, like we are now," Boatright said. "It started really coming around last year."

Last season, while the Huskies were banned from the NCAA tournament, Boatright and Napier moved in together, along with two other teammates. They learned about each other's tough upbringings, and what made each other tick off the court. Napier is a big fan of the show River Monsters on the Discovery Channel, so the duo went fishing once.

"He's pretty good, actually," Boatright said. "He watches it every day. Discovery Channel. What's the guy's name? Jeremy Wade."

Off-court camaraderie helps build on-court chemistry; so does each player working on his own game and addressing areas of weakness. That resulted in Napier's All-American season, in which he's averaged 18.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. And Boatright, the complementary piece, has averaged 12.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists. The diminutive guards – Boatright is listed as 6-foot, Napier as 6-1 – made up arguably the nation's best backcourt this season.

Often times, Napier's heroics were what led Connecticut to victory, whether it be a buzzer-beater or clutch free throws down the stretch. But in situations where Napier found himself in foul trouble or having an off night, Boatright would step up. Napier would make sure to feed him.

"He's not a selfish player," Boatright said. "I know in my heart I can be a starting point guard and I can take over a game, too. Whenever I get the opportunity, I try to do that."

Opposing coaches are aware of that. Despite all the chatter surrounding Napier and how Florida will attempt to stop him Saturday night in the national semifinal game, Gators coach Billy Donovan said Friday he knows the Huskies are not a one-man show.

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"Boatright is a terrific offensive player, plays with great energy on the defensive end of the floor," Donovan said. "Certainly, Shabazz has got the ball in his hands. He takes a lot of big shots, makes a lot of big shots, creates a lot for himself and for others. But Boatright is one of those guys who can do it on his own, too. He's got great ball skills. He's fast. He's a good athlete. He can beat you off the bounce. He can shoot it from behind the line. He's good in pick‑and‑roll.
"So it's not a team where you look at them and you say, 'Well, if you can do a good job on one guy, you're going to be in good shape.' "

The Connecticut coaching staff said Boatright has shown dramatic improvement over the last three years. He's come a long way from the eighth grader who committed to USC, or even the big scorer he was in high school. He's become coachable. He's become a pesky lockdown defender.

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"He's improved considerably, even this year from the beginning to now, in his decision-making," UConn assistant coach Glen Miller said. "He's a guy who came out of high school a flat-out scorer. He's really learned the position and developed himself to be a point guard and make the decisions he needs to make, when to get his teammates involved and when to look for his own offense.

"So many guys come in and they want to be one-and-done. They want to get to the NBA as soon as possible. We support that, but there's a lot of growth that needs to happen for you to eventually get where you want to get. Ryan has learned to be more patient. He's persevered. He's continued to work hard."

Part of that perseverance this season stems from tragedy. Back in January, his cousin, 20-year-old Arin Williams, was shot to death in Boatright's hometown of Aurora, Ill. The two cousins had been more like brothers growing up; Williams' mother died in childbirth, and the boys were both raised in Boatright's household.

For awhile after Williams' death, Boatright had trouble sleeping.

"I love basketball and I care about it, but there was a certain point in time where I didn't care," Boatright said. "It was hard. A few weeks after that, I didn't start getting over it but I started getting some sleep. I started thinking he wouldn't want me to do what I was doing. He'd want me to do my craft. He'd want me to chase my dream and contribute to my team."

So, Robin will continue to do just that. He'll happily play the role of the sidekick if it means a national championship game appearance.

"That's allowing him to be a better basketball player," Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie said. "The way he can get in the middle of the lane and start kicking out to our shooters has been impactful to our run in the Final Four. He's just been doing a wonderful job. And it's not only that, his leadership has been getting great.

"That's what we want the evolution of him as a player … and he's really allowing us to really play at a high level now."

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