An Open Letter to Sagaba Konate
An open letter to Sagaba Konate:
Perhaps that is a bit too familiar, to call you Sags, but that’s what most everyone around these parts calls you. It’s looked upon as a term of endearment.
With you having grown up in Mali — and not very long ago — I suspect you are not familiar with the 1960 hit doo-wop record by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, a song that had a number of covers to follow including by the Hollies, the Four Seasons and Jackson Browne.
We mention it because the song’s title and lyrics get right to the point that should be made right now.
“Stay,” is the name of the song.
The lyrics contain this refrain:
Oh, won’t you stay
Just a little bit longer
Please let me hear you say,
Say that you will
Say you will
Those are words that are being spoken in many ways around this state recently since word began to filter on social media and airwaves that you may be wavering about returning to WVU after saying you would go through the NBA’s draft evaluation period without hiring an agent.
We understand the seduction that comes with the dream of playing in the National Basketball Association, especially for someone like yourself who is blessed with such extraordinary talent.
It is enough to make anyone’s head spin. Thoughts of playing the game against or with LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant or James Harden is, after all, the epitome of all the effort you have put into your game.
But let me introduce a taste of reality to what is going through your mind, and no, it doesn’t concern whether or not you will be a first-round or second-round pick or a free agent, for no one doubts that you possess the necessary ingredients to succeed in the NBA.
The question isn’t whether you should go but when.
The lure of a big time contract is overwhelming, to be certain, but what you are seeking isn’t a contract but, instead a career.
To create your best chance at the kind of career that can turn you into an NBA legend with your ability to block shots, rebound and score is to lay the strongest foundation under your game that you can.
Think of the man-child who performed at WVU your freshman year and the way you developed in your sophomore season, the long stride forward you took.
That got you to the point where people were recognizing you, where you were a defensive All-American, but nowhere near where you will be a year from now. Think back, if you will, to the strides Elijah Macon took two seasons back and honestly answer the question whether he would have taken his game to a new level had he returned last year and shared time with you.
You are just realizing now what you can do, but getting 35 more college games under your belt, getting another year working with Bob Huggins and assistant Erik Martin can take you to the point where going into NBA will not be an adventure as to whether you are ready or not, but just how far you can go.
If you stay, you will miss nothing. Think to this past March, to seeing the Villanova team win the NCAA championship with a pair of juniors, Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, leading the way. Think of the sheer joy on their faces as they finished off the championship and understand that it came with no regrets for playing that year.
Certainly your own teammate, Jevon Carter, can tell you how much it meant for him to stay through his senior year, which allowed him to develop and mature into a potential draft pick.
You have areas of your game that need work, your footwork, your ability to shoot outside and taking the ball to the hoop.
More than that, a year’s maturity would do more for your game than any technical improvements for that would keep you on the floor rather than being yanked by Huggins because you need to adjust your approach.
It’s all there for you, no doubt.
But remember, you are young, you are raw and the ultimate goal is not to become an NBA player but an NBA star, a man ready to contribute immediately and to play many years and leave a mark on the game you love.
If, along the way, you help WVU to its first national championship, you certainly won’t regret that, either.