Final Four: Thabeet ready for big stage
DETROIT ó Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet attended the Final Four in San Antonio last year to collect a national defensive player of the year award.
As he accepted the award, Thabeet made a prediction.
“When I was at the podium, I said, ‘See you in Detroit next year,’ ” Thabeet recalled on Friday. “And I made it happen. This time, I’ve got my guys with me.”
This time Thabeet is hoping to take home a bigger prize ó UConn’s third national championship trophy.
The junior from Tanzania was co-player of the year and the defensive player of the year in the Big East, widely acknowledged as the mightiest conference in the nation. Now he’ll try to dominate an even bigger stage ó 72,000-seat Ford Field.
It’s a fitting venue for the 7-foot-3 Thabeet, who is averaging a double-double in this NCAA tournament ó 11.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. But it’s his eight blocks in four NCAA games that have the Spartans worried.
“Thabeet is a monster inside,” Michigan State’s Goran Suton said.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo joked that the Spartans had trouble watching film of Thabeet.
“Right now we’re adding a screen to our video room so we can get him on the whole thing,” Izzo said. “The one we had, he doesn’t fit.”
Thabeet has come a long way since the first game of his freshman season, when he had 11 rebounds and seven blocked shots against Quinnipiac ó but also went 1-for-6 from the floor.