STORRS, Conn. (AP) -Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet plans to return to school for his junior season instead of entering the NBA draft.
The 7-foot-3 native of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, was projected as a first-round pick in the draft.
Thabeet averaged more than 10 points and almost eight rebounds a game as a sophomore, and ranked third in the nation with 147 blocked shots. He was the Big East's defensive player of the year, helping UConn to a 24-9 record.
``As a team, we took a step in the right direction this year, but I look forward to us working together to win a Big East Championship and making a run at a national championship,'' Thabeet said in a statement released Sunday by UConn. ``I really enjoy being here, getting a great education and spending time with my friends and teammates.''
Thabeet, 21, has been playing organized basketball for fewer than six years.
``Hasheem has made as much progress as any player I have coached in my 36 years and if he continues that incredible progress, he will help us take the next step as a team and help himself become one of the best players in college basketball,'' UConn coach Jim Calhoun said.

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