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

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Recruit to add to the list

Associate head coach Tom Moore said Thursday that the UConn coaching staff has shown interest in high school senior Donnell Beverly, a point guard from Leuzinger (Calif.) High School outside of Los Angeles.

The 6-foot-3, 170-pound Beverly is projected as a mid- to high-major prospect by a number of recruiting services. Kent State and Louisiana State have already offered Beverly.

Moore also said the staff is trying to schedule a visit in the upcoming weeks for Anthony McClain, the 7-foot senior from National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Md.

Monday, March 12, 2007

NCAA and NIT bids

Over the past two weeks, there has been plenty of discussion regarding the "new" and "old" NITs.

With a new format (automatic bids, 32 teams, minimal television influence), this was up for debate until Sunday night.

C.M. Newton, the Hall of Famer who hired Tubby Smith at Kentucky, the man who drove Alabama basketball through the SEC, echoed the thoughts of NCAA Tournament selection committee chairman Gary Walters from a few hours earlier.

(Side note: Did anyone catch Walters' ear-to-ear grin when ESPN anchor Reece Davis asked about comparing high- and mid-majors? Walters wanted that question. He knew it was coming and he jumped all over it. Walters is a smart man. He is used to criticism. It also seems as though he doesn't care about criticism. I like his style. I digress.)

Anyway, Newton, the NIT committee chair, summed up Walters' thoughts in his Southern homespun manner, just as eloquent and thorough, but with not as many 10-cent words. Walters compared the selection process to Jeffersonian Democracy ideals. Newton just said the committee put on their coaching hats.

And in the end, you still have two brackets. Funny how those things work out.

With the NCAA running the NIT, changes did happen. When I spoke with Newton two weeks ago, he said there are so many formulas, so many scenarios that weigh on the committee's selections, but the largest factor is wins.

"Win games and you're in. It's as simple as that," Newton said. "I don't care who you are. Win and you're in. Some principles never change and every coach knows that."

North Carolina State, which played well in the ACC Tournament, qualified for the NIT with the fewest wins (18). When that was announced, University of Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, and the rest of the country, knew the Huskies' season was over.

They had 17 wins, lost their last four (against quality opponents) but 14 of their last 20.

Wins do change prospects.

In terms of bracketology, check out today's New York Times' "Keeping Score" story.

In terms of breaking down numbers, this space is also a must-read.

Ken Pomeroy will show scientific numerical evidence, Keeping Score puts it in perspective.