Hasheem Thabeet looked beaten. Curtis Kelly got the ball in the paint, hesitated, drove right and created what appeared to be a clean look at the basket. But with Kelly leaning in, Thabeet shuffled his feet and backpedaled. Without jumping, he reached back with his left hand and blocked Kelly's shot, sending the ball straight down to the court and starting a break in the other direction.
"He's just unique," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said a few days later. "He's going to change games."
This was only a late-night pickup game at Gampel Pavilion last week, a couple of days after the eight UConn freshmen had arrived on campus. It is a time to get acclimated, a time to grow individually and collectively before the work begins in earnest. It's a time to measure the balance between raw ability and needed growth, a time for first impressions.
"He's just a beast," guard Jerome Dyson said.
Thabeet is 7 feet 3. He is 268 pounds with a well-proportioned body. He's a decent athlete with an innate ability to defend and block shots. He has been playing organized basketball for four years, so he is further behind on the learning curve than some of his new teammates. There's ample reason to believe he'll be somewhat of a project, but he's among the biggest, if not the biggest, player in UConn history.
"In probably two years, he'll be maybe the most [influential] player in all of college basketball," Calhoun said. "Give him two years."
In the meantime, no matter the pace of his progression, Thabeet will remain unique for reasons beyond the court.
Originally from Tanzania, Thabeet speaks three languages: English, Swahili and a little French. He hopes to major in linguistics at UConn, a handful of schools that began to take notice when Thabeet burst onto the recruiting scene as a senior at Cypress Community Christian School in Houston, where he spent two years. Now he's at UConn, still in relative disbelief.
"Four or five months ago," Thabeet said, "no one knew me like now."
Four years ago, his involvement in basketball consisted only of an occasional walk to a court near his home in Tanzania. He was 15, about 6-8. He would watch older players compete for local clubs. One day, a coach approached him and asked why he didn't play. Thabeet explained he was scared to play against adults and, besides, he had no equipment.
Given sneakers and proper attire, Thabeet stepped to the free-throw line, made his first shot and thought to himself, "Yeah, I can do this." A year later, he was sending letters to various colleges in the United States - none like UConn.
"Those coaches who got me started, they told me you can go play basketball in the States," Thabeet said. "I went to the Internet, sent e-mails to small colleges. Small, very small, like some of them might not exist anymore."
He kept his goal in mind even through heartbreak. Just when Thabeet, who has no family in the U.S., was working toward his move to Houston, his father died unexpectedly in April 2004. His father, Thabit Manka, was a diabetic, though Thabeet said he died from an unrelated acid digestive problem.
"That made me start finding any way to get out," Thabeet said. "I know nobody is going to be able to help my mom but me. Right now, she doesn't have a job. ... Now I play for her and my father."
Thabeet hopes his mother, Ruki, can move to the United States in the next year or so.
Flashes of greatness suggest he might have a professional career ahead of him. The first time a member of the UConn staff went to see him was during his junior year, Thabeet said, and he was ejected for nearly retaliating after being hit by an opposing player. Thabeet
Firm Set Plans to Develop Basketball - 2 months ago
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Planet Social Development (PSD), a non-governmental organization based here has outlined its priorities toward the promotion of basketball in 2017. Speaking to 'The Daily News yesterday, the executive director of PSD, Kizito Bahati said there are three major areas his organization will focus in its endeavour to see basketball in the region advanced to the desired level [read more]
Planet Social Development (PSD), a non-governmental organization based here has outlined its priorities toward the promotion of basketball in 2017. Speaking to 'The Daily News yesterday, the executive director of PSD, Kizito Bahati said there are three major areas his organization will focus in its endeavour to see basketball in the region advanced to the desired level. The former Mwanza Heroes and national team player, Bahati named the Junior Basketball League as the first event and the preparations of the players for the event were almost complete ahead of the event's take off in Dar-es- Salaam at the end of February. Bahati said his training centre will take children graded in U-13, U-15 and U-17 years to the competition. He, however, called upon the wellwishers to continue supporting his center in order to achieve this year's strategies. Bahati said his center will collaborate with Angelina Foundation to prepare the basketball bonanza for the U-13 boys and girls to be held at the end of this month at Mwanza Eagles court. He added, in March this year the centre will bring again the United States (USA) based- Minneapolis High School head coach, George Ellis to conduct a two-week basketball training for the children. According to him the centre has managed to draw 300 students in the training course at Mwanza Eagles court in Kiloleli ward. Elaborating more on the strategies, Bahati said in early July the centre will collaborate with the Mwanza Regional Basketball Association (MRBA) to prepare the team for the Inter Secondary School Basketball League. Last time the Inter Secondary School Basketball tournament was held in 2007 at Butimba Teachers Training College (TTC) and Taqwa secondary schools emerged the overall winners. Courtesy of: dailynews.co.tz
The Tanzania Basketball Federation (TBF) general meeting has failed to take place as planned in Arusha for lack of quorum. TBF President, John Bandiye said the meeting was scheduled to be conducted simultaneously with the ongoing National Basketball Championship 'Taifa Cup' but it was shelved following a poor turnout of delegates to the meeting [read more]
The Tanzania Basketball Federation (TBF) general meeting has failed to take place as planned in Arusha for lack of quorum. TBF President, John Bandiye said the meeting was scheduled to be conducted simultaneously with the ongoing National Basketball Championship 'Taifa Cup' but it was shelved following a poor turnout of delegates to the meeting. Initially, the meeting was scheduled to be held on December 5 and 6, while the annual national basketball tournament is going on, but TBF officials had to call off the meeting until the federation's committee meet to discuss the matter. Speaking yesterday in Arusha, Bandiye said the general meeting was supposed to be preceded by TBF's Board meeting but the quorum required to make the meeting legal was not met. The board members are chairpersons of regional associations. "Majority of them had excuses, as some of them failed to obtain permission from their employers to travel to Arusha to attend the meeting," he said. According to Bandiye, only three board members from three regions managed to attend," he said, while also noting that at least four secretary generals from different regions and some players were in Arusha ready for the meeting, but the number was not enough to allow TBF leaders to continue with the meeting as stipulated in the constitution. Bandiye said the main agenda that was to be discussed during the meeting was the constitution amendments and deliberate on the federation's strategic plan for next year as well to discuss and pass the newly suggested players, coaches and referees registration system. The TBF chief has urged all the board members to ensure they attend the next meeting after the federation's Executive Committee meet and announce the new date for the general meeting. As per TBF constitution, the meeting is held once per two years, while the board meeting is held twice per year. In another development, Mbeya beat Kilimanjaro 76-43 in a thrilling quarterfinal clash of the ongoing Taifa Cup. In another semifinal match, Mwanza thrashed Arusha Combine 54- 47 to reach the semi-final stage. Courtesy of: dailynews.co.tz
Dar Ready for Taifa Cup Meet On Friday - 4 months ago
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Dar es Salaam regional basketball association (DB) has named a squad of 30 players to form the men and women teams to represent the region in this year's Taifa Cup tournament scheduled to commence this Friday in Arusha. Targeting to reclaim both men and women's titles, the players have been undergoing intensive training ahead of the national level tournament penciled to start a shootout from December 1 to 10 at Soweto and Sheikh Amri Abeid Stadium courts in Arusha [read more]
Dar es Salaam regional basketball association (DB) has named a squad of 30 players to form the men and women teams to represent the region in this year's Taifa Cup tournament scheduled to commence this Friday in Arusha. Targeting to reclaim both men and women's titles, the players have been undergoing intensive training ahead of the national level tournament penciled to start a shootout from December 1 to 10 at Soweto and Sheikh Amri Abeid Stadium courts in Arusha. According to DB President, Okare Onesmo said the teams are scheduled to leave for Arusha on Wednesday this week after the end of lengthy training. He named the players as in the men's (Dream Team) squad as Philbert Mwaipungu, Evancy Davis, Stephen Mshana, Erick John, Antony John, Dennis Chibula, Cornel Joseph, Murshid Mudrikat, Enricho Agustin and Solo Angelois. Others are Amin Mkosa, Petar Cornel, Yasin Choma, Amin Mtambo. The men's team will be under tutelage of Ashraf Harun. The women's team, according to the president comprises of Rose Cossam, Hadija Kalambo,Retti Mafwimbo, Juliana Mwita, Maria Komba, Jesca Ngisaisi and Orlyne Londo. Also selected are Matha Paulo, Winnie Zabron, Amina Ahmed, Sarah Sylivanus, Zakia Kondo, Joyce Komba and Magerth Michael. The team's coach is Britho Safari. Men's team coach, Harun said his teams contained high skilled players with only one goal, that is to clinch both men and women' s titles. "No team will stop the Dream Team from winning the silverware. We have the most accomplished sides this season," he bragged. The women's team coach Britho Safari said the women team has easiest job to do in Arusha because the team boasts of talented players with vast experience in bigger tournaments. Courtesy of: dailynews.co.tz
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