Sagaba Konate’s facial expression and demeanor doesn’t change when the topic turns to him shooting 3-pointers.
“I’ve put in a lot of work to extend out on my shooting,” said the 6-foot-8, 250-pounder who led the Big 12 with 116 blocks last season.
OK, but seriously, 3-point range?
“On defense, I’ve been working a lot in practice on guarding the guards,” Konate said. “Offensively, I have a lot of faith in my jump shot, even on threes.”
It is an area to his game Konate knows he needs to develop if he is going to have a shot at a career in the NBA.
Measured at 6-foot-6 without shoes at last summer’s NBA Combine, Konate would be undersized against many NBA power forwards and centers and his ability to use his strength and block shots could be lessened at the next level.
In his first two seasons, Konate was a defensive intimidator — he needs 22 blocks to set the school’s all-time record — but he never attempted a single 3-pointer.
That will likely change this season, as Konate said he could see himself helping to stretch defenses by floating along the baseline and catching the ball in the corner for a possible 3-pointer.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said he doesn’t see anything wrong with that picture.
“He’s come a long way,” Huggins said. “He shot it really well at the NBA Combine. He’s put a lot of time in. He’s making threes. Not a steady diet of them.
“It was kind of like Kevin Jones. As K.J. continued to get better, he shot them more and more and I think Sags will do the same thing.”
Konate was 1-for-2 from 3-point range in Friday’s Gold-Blue Debut. He finished with 15 points and five blocks and also had two moments where he played point guard and dribbled the ball up the floor in transition coast-to-coast.
Huggins admits much of that play is a far cry from where Konate began his hoops career.
He didn’t begin playing basketball until middle school, once he became too tall to play soccer.
By the time he moved to the United States and began playing high school ball at Kennedy Catholic in Hermitage, Pa., Huggins said Konate’s range was limited.
“He was about three feet and in,” Huggins said. “He had the ball back over his head [in his shooting motion]. He was just beginning to play when we first saw him. They had him mostly rebounding and blocking shots really until the end of his senior year.”
After a team introduction, Huggins kept his words to the crowd short and to the point.
“We just finished our 15th practice,” he began. “We’ve got a chance.”
Huggins then talked about the need for the Mountaineers to stop turning the ball over.
He then paused.
“For those of you who wondered … Press Virginia is alive and well,” he said.
The Gold beat the Blue, 64-58, with Wes Harris leading the Blue with 16 points, while Esa Ahmad chipped in 12 points and nine rebounds.
Lamont West led the Gold with 15 points and Logan Routt added 10 points.
“Beetle” Bolden sat out the scrimmage, but dressed and warmed up with the team. He is still hampered by a wrist injury.
As for those turnovers Huggins spoke of, the two teams combined for 16.