Saturday, February 09, 2008

We Got Thabeet

(With apologies to The Go-Go's, as far as the title of this post goes. Hey, at least I didn't use "Thabeet Goes On." Anyway, here's part of the notebook from today's 80-68 UConn victory. Read the rest --including some interesting quotes from Doug Wiggins regarding his recent suspension -- in tomorrow's New Haven Register)

Jim Calhoun believes – or hopes – he knows exactly how far along Hasheem Thabeet is in his development as a player.

"I think he's probably about one year from going to the NBA," the coach joked. "Wild guess."

After Saturday's performance, with scouts from the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat in attendance, that's growing increasingly less likely. Thabeet's monster game – career-high 24 points and 15 rebounds, to go with six blocks and about twice as many altered shots – was the latest proof that the 7-foot-3 sophomore is a certain first-round draft pick who's moving up the board practically day by day.

"No one's ready to call (Thabeet) a finished product," said Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt. "He's got a ways to go, but he's stronger and has more balance."

Thabeet had notched a double-double -- 15 points, 10 boards -- by halftime. About midway through the first half, he intimidated Tech's Gani Lawal so much that the 6-8 freshman double-pumped several times and eventually threw a shot to the side of the backboard.

"When a guy pump-fakes four times and shoots the ball over the basket, I'm not sure what that is, but it's something," said Calhoun. "There's no stat for it ... He was sensational."

Indeed, Calhoun believed Thabeet's actual blocked-shot total was much higher than just six.

"The term I used the last two days in practice was, 'Don't throw the ball into the teeth of the lion,'" said Hewitt. "And that's what we did. We threw it right to him, and guys shot an airball or shot it off the backboard over the rim, and they went back the other way."

Thabeet showed improved maturity after an incident with GT's Zack Peacock midway through the first half. The two players got tied up with the ball and Thabeet was fouled. He got visibly upset with Peacock and the officials broke it up. The officials went to the video monitor to see if a technical should be called on Thabeet for retaliation, but decided no 'T' was necessary.

"He punched me," Thabeet reported. "I went up and faked him, the other guy came from behind and punched me. That's why I was kind of not in a good mood. I tried to move out, there were a lot of people holding me, so I just tried to get away from them, and that was it. I didn't try to punch anybody or (do) anything negative, I was just trying to move away from him, that was it."

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