Monday, April 28, 2008

Majok commits, thanks largely to Hasheem

Hasheem Thabeet's decision to forego the NBA draft and return to UConn for his junior season has even more far-reaching benefits for the Huskies. A 7-foot-4 reach, to be exact.

Ater Majok, a 6-10 forward with a 7-4 wingspan, has verbally committed to UConn. And one of the main reasons is the chance to play with Thabeet for at least one year.

Thabeet, a native of Tanzania, hosted Majok, a Sudanese native who's lived in Australia for the past seven years, on the latter's official visit to Storrs last week. The two really hit it off well.

"They're from the same region of the world, so that was really good for him," said Edward Smith, Majok's coach/mentor. "They just spent some time talking together, going around campus, seeing classes, talking about the program and how (Thabeet) has progressed to where he is."

Majok and Thabeet also participated in some intense 3-on-3 pick-up games last week that lasted until midnight.

When Majok heard on Sunday that Thabeet would remain at UConn for another season, that cemented his decision to be a Husky. He was also being heavily recruited by Kentucky and Baylor, and was slated to visit UCLA before being wowed by his visit to UConn.

Smith, who coached Majok at the American International School in Sydney, describes Majok as a "three-four hybrid offensively, and a four-five defensively. He can back down the smaller defender, and he can stroke it from the outside, stretch the defense and make plays off the dribble."

The fact that Majok has played internationally, with a 3-point line who's distance is the same that will be instituted by the NCAA next season, should also help. He swished both his 3-pointers at the Derby Classic last week in Kentucky and raised a lot of eyebrows with his play, despite playing with a bruised foot.

Seems on the flight over from Australia, Majok fell asleep in his seat, stretched his long leg out into the aisle and a stewardess ran over it with a food cart. Those long legs may be a hindrance on an airplane, but they should be a big help to UConn next season.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Hasheem Thabeet has decided to return to UConn for his junior year and not test the NBA draft waters. Here's the statement released by UConn:

University of Connecticut sophomore men's basketball player Hasheem Thabeet will return for his junior season in 2008-09 and will not make himself eligible for the NBA Draft.

"I am excited about the opportunity to stay at UConn and continue the mission that we started this season," said Thabeet. "I also want to thank my family and close friends for all of their help and support. As a team, we took a step in the right direction this year, but I look forward to us working together to win a BIG EAST Championship and making a run at a national championship. I really enjoy being here, getting a great education and spending time with my friends and teammates."

"We are happy that Hasheem has made the decision to return for his junior season," said head coach Jim Calhoun. "Hasheem has made as much progress as any player I have coached in my 36 years and if he continues that incredible progress, he will help us take the next step as a team and help himself become one of the best players in college basketball."

Thabeet was named the 2007-08 NABC National Defensive Player of the Year and the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore. He finished the year ranked No. 3 in the nation in blocked shots and is No. 2 all-time on the UConn career list, behind only Emeka Okafor.

Thabeet will meet with the media tomorrow at 1 p.m. to discuss his decision. See tomorrow's Register for more on this story.