Hasheem Thabeet Assigned to Vipers

Hasheem Thabeet (Photo Credit: Bill Baptist NBAE/Getty Images)

March 21, 2011

MCALLEN, TEXAS – The defending NBA Development League champion Rio Grande Valley Vipers announced Monday that the Houston Rockets have assigned center Hasheem Thabeet (7-3, 263, UConn) to the Vipers.

Thabeet is expected to make his debut when the Vipers host three-time NBA All-Star and one-time NBA Champion Antoine Walker (6-9, 245, Kentucky) and the Idaho Stampede tonight at 7:00 p.m. at State Farm Arena. Fans can take advantage of $1.00 hot dogs, popcorn and soda as well as $1.50 beer. Doors open at 6:00.

In 47 games off the bench in the NBA this season, Thabeet is averaging 1.1 points, 1.6 rebounds and 7.9 minutes. Since joining the Rockets in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies on February 24, Thabeet has played four minutes of two games, recording one blocked shot and missing his only field goal attempt while recording three fouls.

“The assignment for Thabeet is very typical of what we do with our young players. The Houston Rockets coaching staff does a great job of establishing a working foundation for their development. Once we feel the players have done as much as they can in practices and individual workouts then the opportunity to apply the concepts in game settings is a priority and is executed with the support of the Vipers coaches in the NBA Development League. We are looking for Thabeet to play a primary role in games and practices while with the Vipers in order to further support his overall development,” said Vipers General Manager Gersson Rosas, who is also the Vice President of Player Personnel for the Rockets.

The #2 overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft by the Grizzlies, Thabeet averaged 3.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 13.0 minutes in 68 games (13 starts) last season. He ranked second among rookies in blocks per game and led the NBA in blocks per 48 minutes (4.84). Thabeet became the highest draft pick to ever get assigned to the NBA Development League when he was sent to the Dakota Wizards on February 25, 2010. In six games (four starts) for the Wizards, Thabeet averaged 13.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game. He hit 50% of his shot attempts before getting recalled on March 8, 2010.

The first Tanzanian-born player to be drafted by and play for an NBA team, Thabeet played for three years at the University of Connecticut, earning 2009 Co-Big East Player of the Year honors as a junior. He averaged 13.6 points, 20.8 rebounds and 4.2 blocks (second in the nation) while leading the Huskies to the Final Four and earning Second Team All-America and Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors that year. Thabeet was the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) National Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and 2009.

Thabeet becomes the third UConn alum to play for the Vipers this season, joining Stanley Robinson (traded to the Iowa Energy) and Jeff Adrien (earned a GATORADE Call-Up to the Golden State Warriors).

It is the fourth assignment by the Rockets to the Vipers this season. Power forward Patrick Patterson (6-9, 235, Kentucky), who has started four games in a row for the Rockets, recording double-doubles in the last three, was assigned from November 9-through-December 13, and point guard Ish Smith (6-0, 175, Wake Forest), who was part of the trade with the Grizzlies in which the Rockets acquired Thabeet, was assigned from January 17-through-24 and February 1-through-7.

The Vipers roster stands at 11.

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers are the NBA Development League affiliate of the NBA Houston Rockets. The NBA Development League, founded in 2001, is the NBA’s official minor league whose teams have direct affiliations to NBA franchises. For the 2010-11 season, the league will feature 16 teams – including the debut of the Texas Legends. A proven developer of talent, 20 percent of players in the NBA at the conclusion of the 2009-10 season boasted NBA D-League experience, while the league continues to develop coaches, referees, and front-office staff for the NBA and its teams. In fostering the league’s connection to the community, its teams, players and staff promote health and wellness, support local needs and interests, and assist in educational development through NBA D-League Cares programs. The NBA D-League also advances the game of basketball as the research and development arm of the NBA. Throughout the league’s 10th season, fans can watch all NBA D-League games on NBA Futurecast, the free live Web-streaming initiative found at nba.com/futurecast.