MIDWEST CITY — Hasheem Thabeet sauntered into the Carl Albert gym Tuesday to hang out with 50 basketball campers.
If you picked out the two tallest kids, and one stood on the other's shoulders, he still wouldn't be eye level with Thabeet.
At 7-foot-3, Thabeet stood high above everyone. Sort of like he did four years ago this week.
On June 25, 2009, Thabeet was the second overall pick in the NBA Draft, taken by the Memphis Grizzlies.
Blake Griffin went first. James Harden went third. Tyreke Evans was fourth. Steph Curry seventh. DeMar DeRozan was ninth, Brandon Jennings 10th, Jrue Holliday 17th, Ty Lawson 18th and Jeff Teague 19th.
There were some ballplayers in that draft.
Thabeet has yet to join the club.
The Tanzanian, blessed with natural charm and height that makes NBA general managers drool, is among the league's all-time draft busts.
Michael Olowokandi, Kwame Brown, Darko Milicic. That's company you don't want to keep. But that's where Thabeet was headed when he signed with the Thunder last summer. And still might be.
Thabeet played 66 games for the Thunder and 770 minutes. Numbers not all that different from Thabeet's rookie year with the Grizzlies (68 games, 883 minutes), when Memphis quickly grew disenchanted with their premium draft pick.
By February 2011, Thabeet's second season, Memphis traded him to Houston. He was injured, ineffective and barely played. Seven games in all, before he was shipped to Portland, where he played 15 games and was allowed to slip into free agency.
Thabeet, as amiable an NBA player as you'll find, won't talk about those days. Won't discuss his status as a draft bust.
Won't even talk about a possible rebirth in OKC, where the Thunder at least acts like it enjoys having Thabeet around.
“I don't look at it like that,” Thabeet said. “It's another opportunity for me to get better and grow up as a player, also as a person.”
I wanted to chat with Thabeet about his experience in draft workouts four years ago. NBA teams' policy of bringing in potential draftees for interviews and workouts.
What's that like? What kind of things do NBA teams want to know? What do they ask prospects to do?
Turns out, Thabeet is no expert.
“I didn't get to travel a lot and do a lot of that,” Thabeet said. “I had zero experience on that.”
Turns out his agent recommended Thabeet play it coy. Let some of Thabeet's pros and cons remain a mystery.
You have to say, that was good representation. Hard to argue with where Thabeet got picked. No. 2 overall, which netted him a three-year, $14.2-million contract.
It also was good warning for franchises. If someone won't work out, are they hiding something?
Thabeet was not billed as an offensive whiz coming out of the University of Connecticut.
But in his one Thunder season, Thabeet wasn't horrible on offense. He shot 60.4 percent from the field. His turnover rate was about the same as Kendrick Perkins', which is not good, but Thabeet brought a lot of energy to the court. Blocked some shots, kept some balls alive. His defense wasn't great but wasn't bad.
All in all, Thabeet was a decent backup center. Which every team needs but not what is expected of a guy who less than four years previous was the No. 2 overall pick.
The truth is, Memphis taking Thabeet second was a financial bonanza and a career curse. Unless he improves and quick, Thabeet will be remembered as an all-time bust.
Of course, it could have been the Thunder that pulled the trigger. The Thunder brass has admitted it liked Thabeet in the 2009 draft; he was under consideration for the third pick, when OKC eventually took Harden.
Thabeet said he “never thought” of the possibility of being drafted by the Thunder.
He's a guy who never offers a clue that he dwells on disappointments past.
Four years ago this week, only Blake Griffin shined brighter on draft night.
“It's a great thing; you get drafted once in your lifetime,” Thabeet said. “So it's a very interesting experience. I don't really know how to speak about it. It's a very great and special moment. It happened one night. You don't end up stressing over it.”
That's a very good thing for a guy who could go down as one of the NBA's all-time draft busts.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.