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NETS WORKOUT: WVU’s Sagaba Konate, and notes from Jimmy V Classic

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As of Thursday morning, Nets have the 5th, 29th and 36th picks in the NBA Draft. Our Bryan Fonseca has been bouncing back and forth between Barclays and the Garden to take a look at prospects.

Jimmy V Classic Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

It wasn’t the greatest of circumstances for Sagaba Konate to demonstrate his worth. In fact, the Florida Gators made sure it was the worst night so far in his junior season with the West Virginia Mountaineers.

The unaesthetically pleasing encounter capped off the 2018 Jimmy V Classic Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. It highlighted the best and worst of college basketball. (Some of it, anyway …)

Some say that while defense is great, too much of it is unwatchable, and indeed the Gators thugged out a 66-56 victory over Konate and his Mountaineer teammates. While the 6’8” 250-pound forward – really, a center – had been on a roll coming into New York City, he shot 2-for-10, finishing with four points, six rebounds, five turnovers and to top it off, fouled out in 18 minutes of play. In large part, it was all due to the Gators’ stifling defense. All part of the plan for Florida head coach Mike White.

“We’ve got some post guys that’ll fight a little bit and then we’ve got some perimeter guys who will go down and help a little bit. We tried to get (Konate) to see numerous bodies as much as possible, and a couple times he was isolated, had a bunch of space, and he scored those,” he said of slowing down the future NBA pick.

“I think you’ve got to credit everyone that was out there because he’s such a big focus of the scouting report. It wasn’t just our bigs, it was our bigs and our guards.”

Mock drafts had Konate in the second-round last season, for what it’s worth, before a late surge pushed him up the boards. Then, he opted to return to school. In 2019, he is expected to go somewhere between the end of the first round and beginning of the second, right where the Nets will have two picks, barring unforeseen undertakings.

In studying film (or video) while preparing for the game, you can see Konate is “the guy”, and for good reason. He’s averaging 13.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks while shooting better than 40 percent from deep. Last year, he finished second in the country in blocked shots with 116, and third in blocks per game at 3.2.

With a 7-foot wingspan, referred to the native of Bamako in the west African nation of Mali as “a mesmerizing shot-blocker.”

They’re not wrong, by the way …

He also received an invite to the NBA Combine last spring, later working out for the Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers in the pre-draft process. The 76ers posted his media scrum, where Konate discusses wanting to make Africa proud, wanting to improve offensively and more.

And now, he’s added a three-point shot.

While Mike White credits Florida’s defense with slowing Konate, WVU head coach Bob Huggins says his struggles on Tuesday were his own doing.

“I mean, he had a wide-open shot at the foul line. Wide open. What did he do? He dribbled it, and ran over a guy. Why?” he asked rhetorically.

Sure, there are growing pains, but coach Huggins did offer that Konate returning from his NBA draft experience, including that of the Nets, is proving to be beneficial.

“He was the best rim protector in the country a year ago, and he got to where he was, a very effective low-post player. He handles ball screens pretty well,” he said.

“I don’t care if he shoots three’s, it’s just when he shoots them,” Huggins added, regarding Konate’s new found skill. “Is it a good shot? We talk all the time about step-in shots. Step-in shots are the easiest ones to make. That’s what everybody does when you go shoot on your own, it’s a step-in shot. He’s gifted, but you can’t turn and stick the ball between two guys. And the guys that are really effective, they catch you, they feel the defense, they go away from the defense, and they score.”

Sure, we’ll see more of Konate as Big-12 play looms. The Nets more than likely will, too.

Konate was one of two Net workouts who competed at the Jimmy V Classic at The Garden; the other being Florida guard Jalen Hudson, who averaged 15.5 points last season – while playing 26.6 minutes, shooting 45.5% from the field and just over 40% from three – his first as a Gator after transferring from Virginia Tech, where he played from 2014-2016.

Last season was by far Hudson’s best, but he’s since experienced a tremendous drop-off. This season, his senior campaign, Hudson is averaging just 6.0 points in 16.8 minutes per contest, including a six-minute cameo against West Virginia where he shot 0-for-4, all from three, and even missing both of his free throw attempts.

The Nets appear to be Swanton Bombing their way into three top-35 picks. Konate is one the Nets could revisit for either of the latter two.