Konate vs. Fischer: Examining West Virginia’s All-Time Best Shot Blockers
Sagaba Konate put on one of the greatest displays of blocked shots in WVU history when he rejected five first half Kansas offerings on Monday night. Is he the best shot blocker ever in a Mountaineer uniform?
First off, Konate’s 20 minutes of dominance was the single greatest performance in that play phase that I can remember, and that includes D’Or Fischer’s nine rejections against Rhode Island at the WVU Colisuem in 2004 (I was present for that one too.) While Fischer’s total was overwhelming, setting a single-game standard that survives to this day, Konate’s was even more so — perhaps due to the fact that several of them were displays of raw power that halted Kansas dunk and power moves in their tracks.
In a way, comparing the two defenders is an apples-to-oranges match-up, because the two block their shots in entirely different manners, using their differing physical gifts. Fischer, standing 6-11, was all length and reach. His wingspan was tremendous, and he was able to block a number of shots by staying away from the shooter and extending his arm after the shot was away. Like Konate, his timing was outstanding, and he reached the apex of his jump as the shot was closest to him, and he was able to flick away many attempts that looked like they had clear paths to the rim.
On the other hand, many of Konate’s rejections are pure power. Two Kansas dunk attempts saw the unfortunate shooters see not only the ball, but also their entire forward motion, halted by Konate’s clean smashes of the ball. Timing, like that of Fischer, is the building block of Konate’s defensive effort, but his strength is also a big factor. He has learned quickly to “wall up” and take advantage of renewed interpretations that allow defenders their own vertical space, and he has lessened his tendency to take big swings at the ball, which often cause automatic foul calls. It’s highly unlikely that anyone will overpower him, and that makes him an intimidating factor that clearly gets in the heads of opponents when he gets blocks early in the game.
So, which one is better? In a way it’s like asking whether you’d like to have Kevin Jones or Da’Sean Butler on your team. The correct answer is “Both” or “Whichever one you want to give me”. A comparison of numbers appears to give Fischer, who played just two years for the Mountaineers after transferring from Northwestern State, but there are other factors to examine. First, the numbers:
|Total / Per Game|
|Fischer||69||133||124||66||392 / 3.1|
|Konate||53||52*||105 / 1.9*|
+At Northwestern State
Konate will almost certainly break Fischer’s career mark of 190 blocks at WVU, but that’s also based on the fact that he’ll have four years in which to do so. Fischer spent just two seasons in a Mountaineer uniform, but bypassed four-year performer Phil Wilson in just a bit more than half as many games. That doesn’t minimize any of Konate’s achievements — it just points out what a phenomenal shot blocker Fischer was.
It’s also unlikely that Konate will approach Fischer’s single-season record of 124 rejections. During that record 2003-04 season, Fischer averaged an even four swats per outing — almost a full block per game better than Konate’s 3.05 mark so far this season. Again, Konate has been outstanding. But reaching some of Fischer’s numbers would be a major climb. Konate created some excitement when he recorded seven blocks against Baylor this year, approaching Fischer’s single-game WVU record of nine. However, Fischer once had 13 rejections at Northwestern State, which is just one short of the NCAA record for blocks in a game.
The flip side to this, of course, is opposition. Fischer faced a number of lesser foes in his two years at Northwestern State, where he recorded 202 of his 392 career sendbacks. What would his numbers have been like if he was at WVU for all four seasons? Still impressive, for sure, but would his freshman and sophomore totals have approached what he did as a junior and senior for the Mountaineers?
Konate also has to get credit for facing an even tougher overall slate than Fischer did. Although Fischer played against Big East competition, WVU’s current Big 12 slate, plus tougher out of conference competition, means that Konate is doing his damage against better teams and players.
In the end, there’s not a right or a wrong answer here. It’s a shame that Konate’s utter dominance against Kansas was overshadowed by the Mountaineer loss. Fischer’s impact was often the same, and both cause opponents to miss shots because of their mere presence. They are by far the two most accomplished rejectors in Mountaineer history — and choosing one over the other is more difficult than getting a shot by them.