UConn center to determine future with team

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet would
like to return to the school for his sophomore season, but must
first determine if that is financially possible.

UConn coach Jim Calhoun said Wednesday the 7-foot-3 Thabeet will
likely announce in the next week whether he'll make himself
eligible for the NBA draft. Players have until April 29 to declare
for the June 28 draft.

The 20-year-old Thabeet is from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He was
14 when his father, Thabit Manka, an engineer and well known soccer
player, died. Thabeet came to the United States to help ease the
financial strain on his widowed mother, Rukia Manka, and two
younger siblings.

Calhoun said the family was relatively well off when Manka died,
but is now facing some financial hardship.

"He wants to stay very badly," Calhoun said. "He's just got
to find ways in which some help can be given the mother. I don't
mean financial help. Maybe some type of work program, it's very

Thabeet's mother and an aunt have traveled to the United States
to help Thabeet make his decision, Calhoun said. His brother and
sister remained in Tanzania.

"He's very happy at UConn, he's very happy being a student,"
Calhoun said. "He just has some responsibilities that are a little
unique from most kids, very unique from most kids."

Thabeet has an insurance policy against being injured while in
college, and would get a bigger one next year, Calhoun said. But
unlike American players, he is not eligible for a Pell Grant or
similar programs.

He can work during the summer.

Thabeet has been playing organized basketball for less than five
years. Considered a raw talent, he averaged 6.2 points and 6.4
rebounds per game as a freshman. He also blocked 118 shots, and was
named to the Big East all-rookie team.

Calhoun said he has no idea where in the draft Thabeet might be
taken. But if he leaves school, and is not drafted high enough to
secure a guaranteed NBA contract, Thabeet could face immigration
and other problems.

"This is not a simple case of a kid wanting to go out, or not
go out," Calhoun said.