Chip Shots

Jim Buzzerd


There is an adage out there which suggests if you can’t say something nice about someone/something, say nothing at all. I’ve never really been shy when it comes to making critical comments, but in the case of this season’s West Virginia University men’s basketball team, I’ve chosen, thus far, to reserve comment, hoping something positive would develop. After an 83-70 loss to a poor Rhode Island team I’m really not sure coach Bob Huggins can right this ship.
When center Sagaba Konate announced last spring that he would forgo the NBA draft and return to West Virginia for his junior season, many thought his return would be the boost the Mountaineers would need to move on in the post Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles era. With Konate and Esa Ahmad returning and newcomer Derek Culver expected to be a frontcourt force, the thinking was that the Mountaineers could get the backcourt up to speed sooner, rather than later.
Well, Culver has been suspended for the entire season so far for undisclosed reasons. It has been said the 6-10 freshman should be back this season, but that is anything but certain at this point. Ahmad has continued to be plagued by his wildly inconsistent play, but the biggest problem with the team could be Konate.
It’s been out there that Konate has been nursing some kind of knee strain. Konate sat out the Rider game a few weeks ago and sat out Sunday’s game as well.  I think most fans were assuming the decision not to play was the team’s medical staff, but Huggins cast a shadow of a doubt on that notion Sunday when he was asked about Konate’s return.
“It’s up to him and his brother when he plays and when he doesn’t play,” Huggins said. Technically Konate is choosing not to practice, which means in Huggins’ program you don’t play.
Huggins did not specify which brother. Konate has 13 siblings in his family.
Konate’s older brother Bakary was a senior at Minnesota last season and has been said to be advising Sagaba on his future in professional basketball.
MRI’s apparently have not shown damage that would keep the Mali native on the bench. It appears Konate is focusing on a professional career, perhaps at the expense of his collegiate career if he’s choosing not to play. I’m no expert, but the only thing Konate has added to his game is a three point shot and that element may be more detrimental than helpful to the team. Konate on the perimeter takes him away from offensive rebounds and forces him to put the ball on the floor that is a weakness for him.
The backcourt is struggling as well. Point guard Beetle Bolden has been dinged up and missed time, but he’s played well at times too. Sunday his game was as bad as any WVU guard has had in some time. He was 0-8 from the field, had four turnovers and five fouls in 16 minutes.
His starting mate at the two guard is 6-3 Chase Harler. The junior from Moundsville was seldom used in his first two seasons, but is second only to Ahmad in minutes played this season. Huggins knows best, I guess, but Harler has now gone six straight games without a rebound. That is truly a head scratcher given his height and the amount of court time he’s getting.
WVU is 6-4 against the non-conference portion of the schedule, which is usually designed to get enough wins to be able to reach 20 for the season. Folks, a winning season looks difficult at this point, 20 wins will require some magic.