Is Amida Brimah the Next in UConn's Long Line of Great Shot-Blockers?
Here's a story I wrote about Brimah shortly after he committed to UConn last February, chronicling his path from the soccer fields of Ghana to the hardwood of the U.S.
Asked Brimah today if he knew about UConn's legacy of shot-blockers (Emeka Okafor, Hilton Armstrong, Hasheem Thabeet, etc.) before coming to America. Not even close. In fact, the only basketball player he knew about while growing up was Michael Jordan.
Brimah went up against Thabeet this summer during pick-up games at Gampel. He said he played well against him -- didn't block any of his shots, but didn't get blocked, either -- and marveled at just how big and strong Thabeet was.
Thabeet also gave Brimah a bit of advice.
“He told me, when I was playing against him, even though he was bigger than me, I was playing hard, and he just gave me the advice to keep playing hard and stuff," Brimah said.
It's natural to compare Brimah and Thabeet. Both are 7-footers from Africa who were converted soccer players relatively new to basketball when they arrived at UConn. A.J. Price noticed the similarities during the Greater Hartford Pro-Am this summer.
"You hate to compare somebody to somebody, but that's the first thing you see," Price said. "I watched Hasheem be the same way when he first came here, not really knowing how to use his body, know how big he is. (Brimah) has the same problems right now, but he has a good basketball IQ, which is unteachable."
I asked Jim Calhoun if Brimah was ahead of where Thabeet was as a freshman, and he quickly answered, "No." But he also pointed out that Brimah is ahead of where Thabeet was offensively.
Kevin Ollie was still in the NBA when Thabeet arrived at UConn as a freshman.
“I know Hasheem was blocking shots and was amazing," Ollie said. "They used to have Hasheem in the sand pits, working on his hands and things like that so he could probably catch a little bit better. But it would be unfair for me to compare him, because he’s going to be his own player, anyway. He’s not going to be Hasheem Thabeet, he’s going to be Amida.”
Shabazz Napier recalls when Brimah committed to the Huskies, nobody knew much about him.
“I think we looked, but he didn’t have a lot of highlights on YouTube. He had one where he was just blocking little kids’ shots, so we were like, that’s one thing he knows how to do well, but we didn’t expect much. We expected a helping hand, but he’s been doing so much for this team.”
*** No official word on letters-of-intent from Daniel Hamilton, Rakim Lubin and Sam Cassell, Jr., though it appears UConn is waiting to receive all three (or two, or however it may work out) before making an announcement.
But we'll reiterate: the Huskies are not worried about Hamilton backing off his commitment, as has been speculated.
*** Napier knows UConn can't keep shooting 54 percent form 3-point land forever. When the shots aren't falling at some point, he'll be ready to step up.
*** UConn is in the midst of a stretch of six games in 14 days.