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NBA Scouts Impressed By Sagaba Konate During West Virginia’s Sweet Sixteen Run

Two-handed blocks. 20-plus rebounds. The former soccer star is quickly getting noticed.

West Virginia v Villanova Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Hello Mountaineer fans. It is that unwelcome season where basketball has ended and football spring practice is over. What the heck do we do? Watch the Pirates? The Reds? Watch old highlights of the Steelers or focus on ice hockey? None of that sounds very appealing to me.

So let’s reminiscence about basketball for a second. Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles will never wear a Mountaineer uniform again after giving four years of blood, sweat and tears while instilling tons of fear in opponents. Carter, thanks to three Sweet Sixteen runs and an impressive senior season, might have played himself into the NBA Draft. Several scouts have taken notice of the senior’s tenacity, hard work and improvement throughout his career.

But Carter wasn’t the only Mountaineer who turned heads in March. The other was sophomore Sagaba Konate. Konate actually caught fire during a Big Monday matchup with Kansas when he put on a block-party show during the first half. Konate rejected Kansas so much, they felt like a freshman at the senior prom.

Starting with the Kansas game and following through the Kentucky game, Konate had an impressive run where he averaged 13.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.5 blocks. Of those 5.5 blocks, at least two per game were monster two-handed rejections.

In fact, Konate continued to progress throughout the season. He improved from his out of conference numbers once league play began. He continued to show improvement through the Big 12 Tournament and again in the NCAA tournament.

Sagaba Konate 2017-18 Improvement

Out of Confernece In Conference Big 12 Tournament NCAA Tournament 2017 2018
Out of Confernece In Conference Big 12 Tournament NCAA Tournament 2017 2018
7.5 12.3 10.3 11.3 7.9 11.9
6.2 8.5 5.3 7.7 6.4 8.0
2.7 3.6 2.7 2.3 2.5 3.5
Sagabe Konate’s Improvement during the 2017-18 season Jake Lantz

Once the NCAA Tournament started, Konate had announced his presence as one of the premiere shot-blockers in the country. He would go on to finish third in the country with 111 blocked shots this season.

Thanks to the tournament run and the improvement throughout the season, Konate has turned NBA heads. Here is what Sporting News had to say.

It’s likely that Konate goes back to school for another year, but he has the attention of NBA front offices already. In three tournament games, he showed his upside — 23 rebounds and seven blocks, including a memorable two-hander on Villanova’s Mikal Bridges — but also his downside, as he was in foul trouble in two of his three tourney games.

He came to basketball relatively late, but his defensive instincts and toughness on that end are the base of his potential.

GM’s opinion: “I think a lot of teams are kicking themselves for passing up (Golden State second-rounder) Jordan Bell last year. He was undersized (6-9) so that was a problem, but he has the timing and the athleticism in the paint to where that does not matter now in the NBA.

“Sag (6-8) is much the same way, not really big, but he just has a feel for defending the rim, long arms, good athleticism. You need guys like that. I think teams seeing what Bell has done will only help him.”

Should Konate return to West Virginia, his 2018-19 season could see him challenge for Fischer’s block record of 124 and some improvement in his play could lend himself to being a first-round, lottery NBA pick.