HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – After much speculation, University of Connecticut junior Hasheem Thabeet announced today that he would be declaring for Major League Soccer draft eligibility.
The 7’3″ basketball star, after leading his team to the NCAA men’s semifinals, decided to forgo a career in the NBA and instead play his childhood sport professionally in the U.S.
“Where will I be drafted? 140th? 179th? You don’t really know until draft day,” Thabeet said to reporters today.
The junior was projected as a top 3 pick in the NBA draft.
UConn coach Jim Calhoun called Thabeet “one of the most dominating centers in the history of college basketball,” referring to his prolific rebounding and shot blocking. But, he added, “I’m sure he’ll be a good bench warmer in the MLS.”
Lottery picks in the NBA draft average starting salaries of $20-23 million (about $5 million a year). In the struggling American soccer league, the top players make around $2 million per annum.
“I’m not in it for the money,” said Thabeet. “I’m in it for the high injury risk and low rate of return.”
Thabeet has not played soccer since he was in elementary school in Tanzania, when he was 2 feet shorter than he is now. But he’s not worried about losing his skills.
“I’m sure it’s just like riding a samjyug,” he said, referring to the Tanzanian word for “giant centipede.” “It’ll come back to me.”