A Work In Progress: UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet

By Richard Kent
Updated: January 22, 2007

HARTFORD, Ct. — What is that expression about not being able to teach height. Could it be ever more true than at UConn with 7-3 freshman center Hasheem Thabeet, the tallest player to ever play for the Huskies?

The 265-pounder from Tanzania is certainly head coach Jim Calhoun’s biggest recruit if not the most heralded. Sure Rip Hamilton, Caron Butler, Ray Allen, and others were more heralded in high school but few have been called a “difference maker” by Calhoun so soon.

Thabeet is only in his third year of organized basketball and he is certainly playing at the highest level he can. UConn along with Duke and North Carolina are the most sought after programs in the country by recruits.

Thabeet didn’t know much about UConn when he chose them over Louisville, Cincinati and Miami (Fla.) in June but had been on campus to see a game in March. He really liked the urban campus as opposed to the more city campuses that he was being recruited to play at.

Thabeet averaged 16 ppg and 10 rpg at Cypress Smith High School in Houston. He was the eighth-rated center in the country as he entered college.

So far this year, Hasheem is averaging 6.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 4.1 bpg for the Huskies. He’s shooting over 50% from the field and clearly his offense needs to catch up with his defense. He had 10 blocks in a win against Texas Southern.

UConn associated head coach George Blaney is happy with the development of Thabeet but the former head coach for Holy Cross and Seton Hall says that must “keep the ball at the height that he catches it at.”

That was true against Indiana this past Saturday in a loss at the Hartford Civic Center when Thabeet had the ball knocked away from him when he lowered it after catching it from one of the speedy Husky guards.

Thabeet has a #93 ranking by the NBA but is nowhere near ready to come out after his freshman season. If he had any questions he should look back to his game against Pittsburgh on the road. Aaron Gray handled him very well scoring 22 points and grabbing 19 rebounds over him.

Gray is one of the top centers in the country and will be a lottery pick. Thabeet will be one of the top centers in the country and will be a lottery pick. Just not this year.

He has mastered English in addition to Swahili and French. Now he is learning to understand Calhoun and his very distinct Boston accent. He had better listen. There’s no better coach than the Hall of Famer.

Thabeet just might help Calhoun to his third National Championship next year or the year after. Stay in Storrs, Hasheem. It will certainly pay off in the long run.