West Virginia will undoubtedly pay close attention to the NBA Scouting Combine this week.
Mountaineers big man Sagaba Konate declared early for the NBA Draft and was invited to the combine in Chicago, but he maintained his amateur status by not signing with an agent.
Konate can still return to school — he has until May 30 to make a decision — but losing the elite shot blocker is a real possibility for West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.
The Mountaineers might not have as much at stake than other schools, but their 2018-19 season has a lot riding on how Konate performs at the 2018 NBA Combine, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein.
“Bob Huggins told FRS Sports during this past season that Sagaba Konate was probably the second-best shot blocker he’s ever coached in his career next to Kenyon Martin and that’s some pretty serious praise,” Rothstein wrote. “The 6-8, 260 pound big man averaged 3.2 blocks last season as a sophomore and had nine games with five or more blocked shots; that’s the type of stuff that could translate in Chicago.
“If Konate returns to school for his junior season, the Mountaineers will likely have the best shot blocker in college basketball next season. If he doesn’t, Huggins will have to fill a gaping hole in the middle.”
West Virginia already must replace guard Jevon Carter next season. And the Mountaineers defense would be devastate to lose both Carter and Konate.
Huggins is still one of the best coaches in the Big 12, so it’d be naive to expect West Virginia to fall completely off. But plenty will ride on Konate’s decision.
He’s a promising NBA talent who will make the Mountaineers happy either way. If he receives enough positive feedback this week — workouts are Wednesday through Sounda in Chicago — he’d be justified to leave school early and West Virginia fans should be happy for the good times he provided.
The door is still open for his return, however, and one more season under Huggins could bolster his draft stock even more for 2019.