Konate: Big-Time Wing

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Few people noticed or cared when Makan Konate arrived in New England in October 1999. Or even when he averaged 28 points a game two years ago at little Ayer (MA) High.

But now? It's safe to say he has folks' attention. The 6-7 SF -- now at Worcester Academy -- is one of the best players on one of the best teams in the vaunted New England Prep ranks.

"He's really good," fourth-year Worcester coach Mo Cassara said. "BC, Providence, Rhode Island, they've all been here to watch (fall pickup). Al Skinner absolutely loved the kid."

And what's not to love?

The 190-pound Mali native takes and makes threes -- that actually seemed to be the strongest part of his game in the Worcester runs on Tuesday afternoon -- and he gets a lot of things done attacking the glass from the wing. He's a good leaper as well.

He's clearly working out some of the rust that collected last year when he was forced to sit out the season due to Massachusetts foreign-exchange student and transfer rules and regulations.

"I'm trying to get back in shape," he said. "That's the hardest part. But I'm working to get better. My dribbling needs to get stronger."

The 19-year-old Konate played one tournament with New York Elite last summer -- the adidas Big Time in Las Vegas -- and he was an all-star at Eastern Invitational. Other than that, though he managed to keep a relatively low profile.

"A lot of people don't know about him, because he hasn't been out there on the circuit much," Cassara said. "But he plays a straight three. In fact, he's more of a 3/2 than he is a 4/3."

The biggest obstacle, actually, figures to be academics. Konate's no dummy, but he is still learning English, and he's enrolled in ESL programs at Worcester.

"Some of the classes here are very difficult for me because of the English," he said.

That in mind, he's going to wait until the fall, by which time he'll have a better chance at qualifying academically -- not to mention, no doubt, some big-time college basketball options.

His list right now -- a very early, very open list -- includes St. John's, UMass, West Virginia, Wagner and Central Connecticut State.

"I want to make it to the pros," Konate said, "so I can help my family."

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