LAS VEGAS — Hasheem Thabeet knows he has a lot to learn about the NBA. But be patient. The big man from UConn is working on it.
Thabeet made his summer league debut with the Memphis Grizzlies  on Sunday in Las Vegas. He admits there were challenges — like the 24-second shot clock and three-second violations — that he was not used to.
‘I’ve just got to go out there and try to get better playing on this level,’ he said following the Grizzlies’ 86-57 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder . ‘It’s really hard for me to adjust from college level and this level. I thought I was ready, but I just figured out I have a lot of stuff to work on.’
Thabeet scored nine points and grabbed two rebounds in 20 minutes. He was called for four personal fouls. Last season he averaged 13.6 points and 10.8 at UConn.
The Grizzlies had just five practices together before their first Summer League game. Gelling with his new teammates was made easier by the presence of Brookline native Jeff Adrien, whom Thabeet played with at UConn.
‘I’m learning. I’m learning. Every day I go over there I’m trying to get something out of it. Again, five practices since I was drafted by the team. We came out here today, we played hard, we played together,’ he said, adding, ‘That’s what I work on all the time in the gym, I work on my offense. I never really work on my defense. I go in the weight room and I work out there and then play ball.’
The Grizzlies coaching staff and Thabeet are on the same page as he prepares for his first season. They want the 7-foot-3 center to become more aggressive.
‘Just be the force,’ he said. ‘I always go out there and play my hardest to do what I can to help my team. Today was one of those days, my first game, I would go out there and shoot and when the game kept going, I kept getting comfortable and comfortable. I just want to get better. Every day I go out there, I want to be a better player.’
This fall, Thabeet will become the first person from Tanzania to play in the NBA.
‘To me it’s a blessing,’ he said. ‘I’ve been dreaming about this since I left Tanzania, one day I’d go do something for the whole nation. To be in this position, it’s a blessing.’
Sunday wasn’t Thabeet’s best performance. Stay tuned, though, because he has a lot more to prove.
‘I came along way and I’m going to keep working hard to get there,’ he said. ‘For me to get to this position, it took me a lot. Seven years ago I didn’t play basketball at all. Today I’m in this place, I worked hard to get to this position. To me, it’s not the end. It’s the beginning of a new career. I just want to go out there and play ball.’