News, Notes & Rumors – April 21
A few weeks ago when West Virginia sophomore basketball player Sagaba Konate announced that he was entering his name in the NBA draft, most thought he was going to just test the waters, get some feedback from pro coaches and would ultimately return to WVU for his junior season.
Konate still has not closed the door on a return to college, but some with the Mountaineers are now starting to worry that the 6-foot-8, 250-pound center is leaning toward moving on to the professional ranks this year.
Because he has not yet hired an agent, Konate is still eligible to pull his name out of the NBA draft pool, as long as he does so by June 11. The draft itself takes place on June 21. There are currently 54 underclassmen who have declared for the NBA draft and have hired agents, meaning they are not returning to college. Another 86 underclassmen have also declared but not hired agent, like Konate and fellow Mountaineer Esa Ahmad, a junior forward, and thus they are eligible to return to college.
And that list does not include graduating seniors or the international players, all of whom will be fighting to be one of the 60 overall selections in the upcoming two-round NBA draft.
It doesn’t appear that Konate’s NBA stock has really changed much since he announced his availability for the draft last month. Most analysts still regard him as a late second round pick, at best. But reportedly some members of Sagaba’s circle are encouraging him to remain in the draft and take his chances this year in the NBA, or if that doesn’t work out, to play professionally in the G-League or overseas.
The wisdom of that move is certainly debatable, but this is a decision Konate supposedly is struggling with right now. Previously there seemed very little doubt he’d be back at WVU for another season. Now that question is up in the air.
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In regards to Jevon Carter’s NBA draft status, the graduating senior guard is listed by most mock drafts as a mid-second round pick.
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Speaking of drafts, the NFL version is coming up at the end of the week. The Mountaineer most likely to be selected is safety Kyzir White.
The youngest of the White brothers, Kyzir is projected to be picked at some point in the third round. His ultimate position in the NFL is still in question, as some view him as a linebacker at the next level and others think he’ll stay at safety. But most regard him as a solid pro prospect.
The opinions on the other Mountaineers coming out vary. Kyzir’s brother, Ka’Raun White, is regarded as a late round draft choice, though some project that the 6-foot-1 receiver will slip into undrafted free agency status.
The thoughts of the scouts on running back Justin Crawford mirror those of Ka’Raun. At best he’ll be a sixth or seventh round pick, though he could ultimately have to sign as an undrafted free agent.
Kyzir, Ka’Raun and Crawford are the Mountaineers with the best hopes of being drafted, though several others likely will be offered rookie free agent contracts if they are not selected. Linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton, offensive lineman Kyle Bosch and fullback Elijah Wellman seem the most likely to get a free agent chance, though cornerbacks Elijah Battle and Mike Daniels and safety Marvin Gross could also end up signing contracts.
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It was recently revealed that former West Virginia women’s basketball coach Bill Fiske will be a member of the inaugural Hall of Fame class at Schenck High School in East Millinocket, Maine.
An outstanding all-around athlete at Schenck High in the late ‘60s, Fiske went on to an excellent basketball career at Southern Connecticut College, scoring 1,250 points. He moved into coaching after his playing days concluded, and eventually was hired to serve as the co-head coach at WVU in 1983, joining Kittie Blakemore. He helped lead the Mountaineers to a 49-39 record in his three seasons on the bench, setting the foundation for bigger things to come. Health issues relating to his long-term battle with diabetes eventually left Fiske unable to coach. Despite going blind, he remained a member of WVU’s faculty for the next 12 years, teaching classes and also serving as an academic advisor. In addition, he wrote a weekly column for the Blue & Gold News, published a book on sports memorabilia and appeared regularly on sports radio shows. He passed away in 1998 as the results of the ravages of diabetes, but he remains an icon in West Virginia’s athletic department and is remembered as one of the finest basketball players produced by the state of Maine.
Induction for the Schenck High School Hall of Fame will take place on Saturday, July 14 during the town’s annual Summerfest. Fiske’s wife Louise, who moved back to East Millinocket, Maine, after Bill’s death, will represent him at the induction.
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One of the most successful high school coaches in the history of western Pennsylvania has a new job.
Mike Zmijanac led Aliquippa High School to 10 consecutive WPIAL championship game appearances, winning six of them while posting an overall record of 237-36 in his 21 years as the Quips’ head coach (1997-2017). Despite an 11-1 record this past season, Zmijanac’s coaching contract was not renewed this winter by the Aliquippa school board in a highly controversial decision.
The 76-year-old Zmijanac wasn’t ready to hang up his whistle, though, and recently he was hired by Ringgold High School, which is in Monongahela, Pa.
Normally the coaching moves in the Western Pennsylvania high school ranks wouldn’t be noteworthy on the southern side of the Mason-Dixon Line, but a number of Zmijanac’s Quips have made their way to WVU over the years, including Charles Fisher, Dravon Askew-Henry, Jaleel Fields and most recently Kwantel Raines, who is highly-regarded safety in the Mountaineers’ class of 2018.
Despite Zmijanac’s departure, West Virginia will continue to recruit Aliquippa heavily. Marlin Devonshire is a four-star defensive back in the class of 2019 who the Mountaineers have already offered, but so too have many of college football’s other powers. Mike Warfield, who also is a Pennsylvania state trooper, was hired to serve as Aliquippa’s new head coach. An Aliquippa alum, Warfield previously been the quarterback coach at nearby Central Valley (Pa.) High School.
Zmijanac doesn’t figure to have as many FBS prospects at Ringgold as he did Aliquippa, though RHS has certainly produced some outstanding players in the past. Chuck Smith, a defensive lineman at WVU in the ‘70s, and Larry Holley, a safety for the Mountaineers in the ‘80s, both are Ringgold products who found success in Morgantown, which is about an hour south of Monongahela. But all pale to the most notable Ram of them all, Joe Montana.