In addition to his impeccable timing and instincts, West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate possesses another quality that has aided his emergence as college basketball’s premier shot blocker.
The Mali native isn’t afraid to wind up on the wrong end of a poster dunk.
“Most of the time guys are hesitant to be put on SportsCenter,” West Virginia assistant coach Erik Martin told Yahoo Sports. “When guys think they’re going to get dunked on, they usually get out of the way. The thing about Sags that makes him such a good shot blocker is that he wasn’t raised in America and he doesn’t have those bad habits. He’s not afraid.”
New evidence of Konate’s fearlessness arrived Friday night when he delivered the most jaw-dropping block of the NCAA tournament during West Virginia’s 90-78 loss to top-seeded Villanova in the Sweet 16. When Mikal Bridges attempted to throw down a transition tomahawk jam midway through the second half, Konate met the future first-round pick at the rim with one of his trademark emphatic two-handed blocks.
Konate averaged 3.3 blocks per game as a sophomore, a startling accomplishment for someone who has only been playing competitive basketball for four years and doesn’t resemble most elite rim protectors. The 6-foot-8 forward is undersized for a high-major center and doesn’t boast a freakish wingspan, but he has proven over and over again that it’s unwise to challenge him at the rim.
Of course, sometimes Konate pays the price for his fearlessness. Five minutes after his Youtube-worthy block against Bridges, Konate tried to do the same to Villanova’s Eric Paschall and wound up getting dunked on.
Paschall’s dunk came in the midst of a strong finishing surge from Villanova. The Wildcats outscored West Virginia by 18 points after the Mountaineers took a six-point lead midway through the second half.
– – – – – – –