— Metro_Boston (@Metro_Boston) April 5, 2014
Carmen Velasquez raised three children on her own in the tough Mission Hill projects in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. One of those children was Shabazz Napier, the sensational UConn point guard. When Shabazz steps out on to the court to face Florida, his number one fan will be there cheering him on, his mother, Carmen.
UConn faces the Florida Gators on April 5 in the NCAA Final Four.
Here’s what you need to know about Carmen Velasquez:
1. She Did All She Could to Keep Shabazz off the Streets
Raising three children in the projects was so tough that Carmen had to send Shabazz to live with relative, former Detroit Piston, Will Blalock. Blalock helped serve as a mentor for Shabazz’s burgeoning basketball talent, something Carmen knew she couldn’t do adequately. Napier told ESPN in 2013 about his mother’s problems in keeping him off the streets, “Certain days I would get into the nonsense. She told me. You have something special. Do something with it.”
2. Shabazz Gives His Mother Father’s Day Gifts
— Ryan J. Stewart (@r_stew5) March 29, 2014
On Father’s Day, Shabazz gives his mother a gift. He told The Day:
I’ve never had a father in my life. I’ve had father figures but not a father. So she’s been my mother and father to me. On Father’s Day, I give her the gift…That’s where I get my ability to never quit, to always stay focused and to always strive to be great. My mother is not perfect but she strives to be great every day. She does the things that make it easy for me to be happy.
3. Carmen Plays Down Her Role in Shabazz’s Success
— Helberth Ariza (@HelberthAriza) March 30, 2014
She’s humble about her contribution to Shabazz’s success. Speaking to The Day in 2013, she says:
I just gave him the basketball at five and a half and he took it from there. … I’ve seen his determination. He put his heart into it, matter what obstacles came along.
Now she even acts as Shabazz’s manager.
4. She’s Ever Present at UConn Homegames
Velasquez attends nearly every UConn homegame, clad in her Shabazz jersey. In 2011, she was at the Reliant Stadium in Houston when her son won the national championship in his freshman year. That year, Shabazz and UConn overcame Kentucky, the team they could face again this year.
5. Shabazz Graduates in a Month
Shabazz graduates from UConn on May 11, with the NBA beckoning, a day that will be emotional for Carmen. When talking about the day, she says “Oh, wow. It’s going to be something special. We’re both going to cry.”