UConn awaits eligibility ruling on freshman center

Updated: October 11, 2006, 8:19 PM ET
Associated Press

STORRS, Conn. -- Connecticut will begin practice this weekend without knowing whether freshman center Hasheem Thabeet will be eligible to play this season.

Thabeet, a 7-foot-3 center from Tanzania, is seeking a ruling on whether he meets some core-curriculum requirements, or can get a waiver of those requirements. The school is awaiting word from the NCAA.

Thabeet was expected to be UConn's starting center.

"Clearly, with a 7-3, 268-pound athlete, we'll play a little bit different with him than without Hasheem," coach Jim Calhoun said. "He's that much of a difference maker in my opinion."

Without Thabeet, 6-7 sophomore forward Jeff Adrien or 6-9 freshman Gavin Edwards may move to center and the team would play a more "scramble" style, than a post game, Calhoun said.

The case is complex because Thabeet was educated in both Tanzania and in the United States. He attended Cyprus Community Christian School in Houston last year.

But Calhoun said Thabeet is a very strong student.

"He already has six hours here at UConn, and he's enrolled in five courses right now," Calhoun said. "I really believe he belongs here."

Thabeet said he doesn't know what will happen, but is hopeful.

"All I can do is work hard, so if I have the chance, I'll be ready," Thabeet said.

Connecticut's season got off to its annual unofficial start Wednesday with the annual Husky Run. The 5k race precedes Friday's "First Night" practice show for the fans, and Saturday's first full practice.

Walk-on guard Marty Gagne, a senior from Vernon, was the first basketball player to cross the finish line, at 21:38 seconds.

Sophomore guard Rob Garrison of Niagara Falls, N.Y. was the first scholarship player across the line, at 22:48.

Garrison said he made sure he was in shape this fall, and ready for coach Calhoun's notoriously brutal first practice.

"Freshmen are going to find out [Saturday]," he said. "I feel sorry for them. I'm kind of happy we have eight freshmen on the team, 'cause it will take some of the attention off of me."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press