Mesmerizing shot-blocker Sagaba Konate withdraws from the NBA Draft to return to West Virginia
Konate's defiant defensive artistry should keep the Mountaineers near the top of the Big 12
Konate spent the past two months testing his stock for this year's NBA Draft. He didn't overwhelm at last week's combine, measuring at 6 feet 7.5 inches in shoes, logging a standing reach of 8-10.5, having a 7-foot wingspan and carrying 7.35 percent body fat. (For comparison, Mohamed Bamba's pterodactyl reach was 7-10 with 6.20 percent body fat.)
Konate was expected to return to college basketball, but after his impressive March performances, he was right to see where he stood in this year's pool of prospects.
Fortunately for West Virginia, and for college basketball fans, Konate will remain a Mountaineer. Few players are more fun to watch in the sport, and I can't recall many who've ever had the delicate-yet-powerful knack for shot-blocking like Konate. He is mesmerizing to watch on defense.
The Malian menace embarrassed a pack of players last season, most notably by meeting them at the rim and two-hand-shoving them away. Amazingly, Konate did this most frequently without being called for a foul.
When we watch basketball, we watch it to be entertained on the offensive end. With West Virginia, it's the opposite effect. And with Konate, you're hoping and waiting on the moments where he meets a victim at the summit. Here's Konate in action last season. Enjoy this compilation of soup sendbacks. He may well double his highlight inventory by the end of next season.
Perhaps more amazing: that players continued to test him, usually failing.
Konate's timing and sense of an opposing player's momentum is special, perhaps even more so when you realize he measured "only" a 35-inch max vertical leap at the combine.
If anything, Konate proves that athletic and agility tests cannot possibly tell the whole story. Sure, he might not be an NBA-ready player right now, but he's unquestionably one of the best defenders in college basketball. He has a sense about the game, a sense most players can never know. His block rate last season was 15.6 percent, meaning he swatted 15.6 percent of opponents' attempts when he was on the floor.
That came out to 3.2 stuffs per game, in addition to averaging 10.8 points and 7.6 rebounds.
With his return, Konate will play alongside forwards Esa Ahmad, Lamont West, Wesley Harris and Logan Routt. The Mountaineers could easily have one of the deepest, most dependable frontcourt deployments in college basketball. Despite losing do-it-all point guard Jevon Carter, WVU is expected to be near the top of the Big 12 again.
And Konate will be near the top of many would-be dunks, only to morph them into make-you-stand-out-your-seat block achievements. Few players in college are must-watch the way Konate is, and he's bound to get better.
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