Napier relieved after signing with Asbury

Published 1:05 pm Thursday, December 13, 2018

STANFORD — Lincoln County High School’s Zaria Napier is feeling a little lighter on the hardwood these days.

The search to find a college to continue one’s education and athletic career can be both exciting and stressful, and it was just that for Napier. But the senior forward shook off that stress and is now bubbling over with plenty of excitement after signing with Asbury University.

“It lifted a big weight off my chest,” said Napier, who was surrounded by coaches, teammates, friends and a large group of family members for her signing. “I wanted to get it over with so I wouldn’t have to worry about it. I wanted to put all my focus on this season here, so it was important to make my choice early.”

Like three of her senior teammates before her – Emma King, Kaitlynn Wilks and Maddy Boyle – Napier had her college choice made before the Lady Patriots’ 2018-19 season ever started. Napier publicly announced her decision to play for Asbury, an NAIA school, during a special signing ceremony at LCHS before Lincoln’s opener.

After looking at other colleges, including Georgetown College, Napier, a 5-foot-11 senior forward, said Asbury just felt comfortable.

“I really liked the school when I went on a campus visit and the coach – he is really nice. I liked him and I watched the basketball team and I felt like I would fit in good with their team,” she said. “I was looking at other schools first and then Asbury came to me and they talked to me more. I felt like that really pushed me towards them.”

“I’m excited about this season, but I’m also excited about next season,”

While excited about her decision, Napier may not have been the happiest person in attendance at her signing. First-year Asbury coach Chad Mayes, a former Boyle County assistant coach, may have topped her level of excitement.

“I’ve been watching her play for years so I knew what kind of talent was there and, when I found out that Zaria was still available, I wanted her,” said Mayes.

Napier, who said, “I want to go somewhere where I can play instead of sitting on the bench,” decided she wanted Asbury as well.

“I want to be engaged with the team and active with them on the floor,” she said. “They let me know I can do that. He (Mayes) was telling me he liked my athleticism and that I would have a chance to get on the floor and play varsity.”

When asked what she could bring to the Asbury Eagles basketball team, Napier said “rebounds and defense and speed, obviously, run outs and more athleticism.”

Mayes touched on Napier’s athletic strengths after her signing.

“She can do so many things,” he said. “She writes left-handed, shoots right-handed. She can dribble with either hand. Watching her over the years, she’s shown she can rebound the basketball but she can also bring the basketball up and she can attack with the basketball.”

Mayes says that Napier not only has the athleticism needed to succeed at Asbury but that she plays Asbury’s basketball style.

“Since I’ve taken over, we’ve played an attacking brand of basketball and she just fits perfectly into that,” Mayes said. “We’re very aggressive on defense. Here at Lincoln, that’s how Coach (Cassandra) McWhorter plays. We also attack the rim on offense. She fits perfectly with what we try to do. This is a perfect match with what we’re trying to do. We’re excited to get her.”

Mayes liked what he saw in watching Napier. Napier, who averaged 6.5 points per game last year at Lincoln, shot 66.7 percent at the foul line and averaged 6.4 rebounds, said the same for Asbury.

“They’re really good. I’ve watched them play and they play really well together,” said Napier. “I really think I will fit in good with them.”

The coach and the team won over Napier on her campus visit, but it didn’t hurt that the school was close to home.

“I knew I would pick somewhere that was not too far away from home because I get homesick really easily,” she said. “It’s close. It’s only 30 minutes away, so it’s easy for me to come home if I want to.”

Mayes said he learned over the recruiting process that he was getting one “well-rounded” young lady in Napier.

“In getting to know her over the years, I found out what kind of athlete she was and now, getting to know her in the recruiting process, I’ve found out what kind of person she is,” Mayes said. “I know now that she’s a better person. And that’s saying a lot because she’s a phenomenal athlete.”

Napier, the daughter of Maurice and Shatia Napier, plans to pursue a degree in criminal justice and forensics at Asbury.