West Virginia’s Konate officially declares for NBA draft; plans to sign with agent

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia forward Sagaba Konate took the second step toward a journey into the NBA by officially entering his name into the upcoming draft.

According to a university release, the 6-foot-8 junior plans to sign with an agent, though under new NCAA rules, that does not automatically end Konate’s college eligibility.

“Every kid who plays basketball growing up has a dream of playing in the NBA,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said in the release. “We wish Sags nothing but the best as he chases that dream.”

Konate, limited to just eight games last season because of a right knee injury, had applied for an NBA evaluation on April 2, which comes from a group of NBA general managers.

By entering the draft, which is June 20 in Brooklyn, Konate’s next indicator to his future could depend upon who he hires as an agent. The NBA Players Association has a list of certified agents who are eligible to help underclassmen go through the draft process without jeopardizing eligibility.

In order to preserve college eligibility, Konate must sign with a certified agent. If he were to hire an agent outside of the list, he would forfeit his remaining seasons at West Virginia.

If Konate does sign with a certified agent, he faces two deadlines on whether to go pro or return to school. The first deadline is May 29, which is 10 days after the completion of NBA Combine in Chicago. That date is somewhat arbitrary, because under new rules passed last summer, players who want to remain in the draft can still return to school if they go undrafted, as long as they terminate all dealings with the certified agent.

If Konate were to be the final pick of the second round, for example, he would not be eligible to return to West Virginia.

Appearing in front of the media in Charleston Monday night for the Mountaineer Athletic Club Scholarship Dinner, Huggins said he would like the dates for the current rule to be earlier so teams can replace players leaving.

“The way they we have it now there is nobody available,” he said. “Now you’ve got 12 guys who just lost their best player probably if he is going to the draft. They lost their best player and can’t replace him. That’s not fair to them.

“Those guys want to win. They want to go to the NCAA Tournament, they want to advance in the NCAA Tournament. What happens to them, that’s not fair to them.”

The list of players invited to next month’s combine is not complete, so there’s no guarantee Konate will be there.

Konate emerged as an NBA prospect during his sophomore season, in which he averaged 10.8 points and recorded 116 blocked shots.

He first injured his knee late that season, but still opted to test the NBA’s draft waters and was invited to the combine.

Konate withdrew from the 2018 draft and returned to school and had surgery on his knee, but his recovery went slower than hoped.

He entered last season practicing sparingly. He played in the Mountaineers’ first five games, before sitting out the Nov. 28 game against Rider with knee soreness. Konate then played in the next three games, including the Dec. 7 win against Pitt, in which he blocked seven shots to give him a school-record 191 for his career.

That was the final game of the season for Konate, who averaged 13.6 points and eight rebounds over eight games.

Huggins added on Monday night that the ultimate decision to declare for the draft should come from the family.

“That’s a family decision,” he said. “I think the final counsel after looking at all the facts should come to the family.”

If Konate were to remain in the draft, West Virginia would have three open scholarships to fill. The Mountaineers have already signed four players for next season.

Konate is the seventh West Virginia underclassmen under Huggins to declare for the draft, following Joe Aexander, Devin Ebanks, Kevin Jones, Juwan Staten, Devin Williams and Esa Ahmad.

Alexander, Ebanks and Williams remained in their respective drafts, while Jones, Staten and Ahmad returned for their senior seasons.

Huggins said his job is to give the players the best information to make the decision.

“I’m not going to tell him to stay when he shouldn’t stay, I’m not going to tell him to go when shouldn’t go,” Huggins said.

“That’s not my deal. In the past, I’ve said to guys, ‘Are you sure that this is what you really want to do? Here is what you are passing up, here is what you could potentially get and here is what reality is of what you may get.”

MetroNews Reporter Jake Flatley contributed to this story.

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