Monday, April 19, 2010
HASHIM THABEET THE NBA SUPER STAR FROM TANZANIA
Hashim Thabit Manka or Hasheem Thabeet was born on February 16, 1987 in Dar es Salaam. Hasheem Thabeet is a college basketball player at the University of Connecticut Huskies.
When Connecticut's 7-3, 263-pound junior center Hasheem Thabeet made the 7,600-mile journey to America five years ago from the African country of Tanzania, he had no compass to direct him on this basketball odyssey, nor any barometer to gauge how much effort it would take to achieve the rewards that lay ahead.
But like any immigrant looking for a better life in America, he has worked his way into NBA lottery status and become a source of pride to those from with similar aspirations.
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He has become a beacon of hope for his country, the way NBA center Dikembe Mutombo is for Zaire, and the way Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon has been for Nigeria.
Thabeet's goal was to be a scholarship basketball player, but having established a new life halfway around the world, he could never have fathomed how his story has captivated a nation.
Africa has long been an untapped basketball resource, a diamond mine of raw talent that reached mythological poportions when Kevin Bacon starred in the movie "The Air Up There," in which he played an assistant coach in search of a new star, a man who watched a videotape of a prospect then went into the bush to recruit him. The NBA has tried to cultivate the game there, running camps and clinics throughout the continent in hopes of eventually increasing its player pool and global appeal.
"When I went home last summer, I couldn't believe how many kids were out there playing basketball in my country," Thabeet says. "There are a lot of good players nobody knows, who get no respect. Hopefully, one day, I can go help by running camps for others."
Thabeet established himself as a legitimate NBA prospect last year when he was selected Big East Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 10.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and an NCAA Division I-leading 4.5 blocked shots. He is the biggest reason the Huskies should be in the national championship mix this season.
"We have no excuses," Thabeet says. "We have everybody back."
Thabeet considers himself as an old school player who watches tapes of Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then tries to pattern his game after them.