Friday, March 16, 2007

Thabeet's decision for next year

Here's a story on Hasheem Thabeet that only made the Register's print edition on Friday.


NBA still a family decision for Thabeet
UConn freshman has six weeks to decide his status

By Brett Orzechowski
Register Staff

Since discussions began regarding Hasheem Thabeet’s future at the University of Connecticut, coach Jim Calhoun has said the freshman’s decision to declare for the NBA Draft will ultimately be a family concern and not a basketball matter.

The plan has not changed.

Thabeet’s mother, Rukia Manka, has spent the last few days with her son in Connecticut. The purpose of the trip is twofold. According to Thabeet this is the first time he has seen his mother in more than three years since arriving in the United States from Tanzania to attend high school. The second is to discuss Thabeet’s basketball future.

“Really, Hasheem has to explain to his mother what this is all about because it’s $5,000 back home for four people to live. It’s very difficult to comprehend that,” Calhoun said. “Try to take those types of numbers and tell your mother you can go make a million dollars, solve her problems, and go back and see her whenever. She’s got two other kids and her husband has passed away. The hardship thing is not an easy matter.”

The 20-year-old Thabeet began his formal basketball education a year after his father, Thabit Manka, passed away. Thabeet said his father was diabetic. Since then, the 7-foot-3 center has traveled across the country between three different high schools before arriving in Storrs.

He showed some progress this season after averaging 6.2 points and 6.4 rebounds while leading the Big East in blocks with 3.8 a game. Thabeet was an offensive liability, which did not surprise the coaching staff, but he compensated with his defense.

NBA scouts made a number of appearances this season and most were split on Thabeet’s draft prospects. Some said he was a year away, others believe that since he has only played for three seasons, there is potential because of his size and coachability.

Along with his attributes are uncertainties. There are no guarantees beyond the first round and those contracts are now for two years, no longer three, and teams are issuing fewer guarantees beyond those agreements. A friend of Thabeet’s played in the National Basketball Developmental League and told him it was one of the more miserable years of his life. Thabeet is projected anywhere from the middle to late first or even early second round.

“I think from a basketball perspective it’s a no-brainer. He needs some work,” Calhoun said. “But it’s not like it was a few years back when Donyell (Marshall) can sign a contract that’s going to last. It’s more structured and not as certain.”

Calhoun said he will discuss matters further this week with Thabeet and his mother.

Thabeet has until April 29 to declare for the draft, but Calhoun said the freshman’s decision for next year will be made before that date.

Brett Orzechowski may be reached at borzechowski@nhregister.com

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