Chip Shots

The Saga(ba) continues
Fans of the West Virginia University Men’s Basketball Team received some good news last Thursday when sophomore center Sagaba Konate announced that he removed himself from the upcoming NBA draft and will return for his junior season at WVU. The announcement ended weeks of speculation that the rapidly improving native of Mali might indeed turn pro.
When Konate originally announced that he was going to ‘test’ the NBA waters by going through the pre-draft process, most of us couch potato analysts figured doing so would be good for him as it would help him better prepare for his future in basketball. The consensus was something along the lines, ‘the kid has great potential, but is way too raw to get serious consideration from NBA personnel types at this point.’
That assessment is pretty close to what ultimately occurred, but along the way rumors circulated that Konate was possibly getting advice from some family members suggesting he was ready for the pro game now. Whether the suggestions were that he was NBA ready, just ready for pay for play anywhere is not clear.
Then Konate had good enough workouts to be among approximately 70 players invited to attend the combine in Chicago. Getting that invite and the rumors of family pressure gave much more traction to the possibility that Konate may indeed be headed to the draft. Konate had a solid combine according to reports, but the projections had him as mid to late second round pick in this year’s draft. Opinions were mixed as to how much another season of college would help Konate’s stock.
Here is how yours truly has interpreted the situation. I’ve never stood beside the guy, but I’ve heard Sags isn’t quite 6-8, something which makes his knack for blocking shots even more impressive. At the combine he was measured without shoes and he was short of 6-7. That measurement, according to at least one analyst, meant that Konate would never be considered for much more than spot duty at the center position in the NBA.
Most were in agreement, however, that his lack of height wasn’t necessarily a deal breaker if he could develop his shot from farther out than the 16-17 foot range; be able to play the forward position. Konate’s shooting range showed great improvement from his freshman to sophomore season and we now know he’ll be working on extending that range closer to the three point line. Don’t bet against him accomplishing this task, especially if coach Bob Huggins is on board.
Of course, if Konate is going to have to learn to play further from the basket with the ball, that means he will need to be able to defend further from the basket as well. While he can look super human at times when he’s camped out at the rim, his defense becomes noticeably pedestrian when he’s pulled away from it.
Part of me wants to say Konate will be a long shot to ever become a first round NBA pick. He’s too small for a center and too slow for a forward. Then there is the part of me that sees a kid with barely five years of organized basketball on his resume, become an elite college shot blocker and an emerging scorer.
Even if Konate can’t become a first round pick, he’ll figure out how to play at the next level.