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Thabeet should stay in school


Connecticut has won 10 games in a row and one of the key reasons is the development of Hasheem Thabeet.

Here is a message to the Huskies big man: please return to school for your junior season. Send it out as a bulletin! Stay in school and you could be the best big man in America next year.

Your improvement has been so unique. A lot of credit should go to the brilliant coaching of Jim Calhoun, assistant coach George Blaney and the entire staff. Connecticut is 21-5 and a contender to win the Big East championship. Some experts have said that Thabeet should be a conference Player of the Year candidate.

His progress has been unreal. He was the difference against DePaul in the team's most recent win. Connecticut would have been in trouble without him. It was more than his points (16), rebounds (13) and blocked shots (8). Iit was also his presence in the lane as he forces opponents to adjust shots. His stamina has improved as he went 37 minutes against the Blue Demons.

Thabeet's development offensively has certainly been great to watch. There is a great opportunity to grow even further. If he goes to the NBA, the cash will be there but there will be a lot of time on the pine. He would be better off learning and gaining more experience in an intense environment in a competitive situation under a Hall of Fame coach.

You look at his numbers for this season: 11 points per game, eight rebounds per game., 62-percent from the floor and 31 minutes per contest. They can go up, up and up if he returns next year. Remember, he started playing basketball later than many kids, so future growth and learning more about the game could happen.

Staying in college would make him better in the long run. Too many guys come out early and fail to develop and reach their potential. On the collegiate level, you have workouts and practices on a regular basis; in the NBA, there is so much travel and the length of schedule forces players to be treated in a different fashion. Teams try to protect guys from injuries and the intensity of practice is way down.

My message is loud and clear. Hasheem Thabeet, return to school and be a first-team All-Solid Gold player! Be a force on the collegiate level and continue to improve for the future. The money from the NBA will be there, and you can be an M&M'er, a mismatch for opponents of Connecticut.

Of course I can tell you this because I am a TV analyst and not a Big East coach. Believe me, opposing coaches in the conference would buy him a ticket to attend the NBA draft! They want him to move on.

The future is unlimited for the 7-3 center from Tanzania.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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