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Previewing the 2016-17 season player by player, continuing with Bakary Konate

Bakary Konate started at center last winter for the Gophers as a true sophomore season. Konate gained 22 minutes of experience on average. Konate is the subject of today’s focus.

Statistically Speaking

The Good

Bakary came to Minnesota as a raw project with a good work ethic and good character. It was known that Bakary would be a project and as a sophomore he played 22 minutes a game and improved in many stat categories while averaging five points, five rebounds, and a block a game.

Konate shot 50.5 percent from the floor (the percentage was down from a year ago but he only averaged one shot a game as a freshman) which is better than many teammates although as a center that percentage needs to be up about five points at least going forward. Konate improved from being a 53 percent foul shooter to being a 68 percent free throw shooter which is very good for a big man.

As a rebounder Bakary grabbed a board once every 6.5 minute played in 14-15 but as a sophomore he grabbed a board once every 4.2 minute played which was a strong improvement. Bakary also had five double figure rebounding games last year. Konate blocked 31 shots for the season which isn’t a huge total for a starting center but it’s better than a year ago.

The Bad

Minnesota would like more from Konate as a junior. Bakary produced like a back-up center should produce as an underclassmen numbers wise but the problem was Bakary was the starting center. Five points, five rebounds, and a block a game is usually okay for a sophomore center but this was the starting center and the Gophers needed more. They needed about 60 percent shooting from Bakary and less turnovers, not 50 percent shooting and three times as many turnovers as assists.

Bakary doesn’t get to shoot much (just less than four attempts per game) and may have a case for the guards not getting him the ball when he’s open enough but Bakary has to be more reliable inside. Fifty percent shooting, few successful kick-outs, and too many turnovers does not often result in increased post touches. And while the rebounding and blocked shot numbers were improved, they need to be better as an upperclassman.

Focus on 2016-17

This year we expect Bakary to be the back-up center, assuming Reggie Lynch doesn’t have any more issues. If Reggie healthy and eligible as expected he will likely be the starting center and Bakary will back him up.

In practice the only thing that will change is that Reggie will no longer be on the scout team, he will be running with the starters. Bakary will still go against Reggie in practice on a daily basis just in maybe a different way when the teams are scrimmaging. Should you expect more from Bakary this year? Of course.

Should you expect the same Bakary? I would say no. He showed in his numbers that he will make improvements and we saw him improve from his freshman to his sophomore year in every way in terms of team basketball. Now you can expect Bakary to improve from his sophomore to his junior year.

What does he need to do better? Bakary needs to be more fluid inside with the ball. Each post move, pass, face-up and everything else has to be fluid meaning quicker and more comfortable. Bakary did show some nice post moves at times and he was able to finish in strong ways when teammates dumped off for him. Now he just needs to keep his balance inside and complete post moves without getting knocked off balance or without rushing his attempt throwing off the timing. He also needs to catch a better percent of his passes and react quicker to box-out hits and defensive rotations.  All of that should get better with more experience.

Another thing he has to get better at is communication on screens and rotations. Maybe it was his teammates not listening, or his teammates not understanding him, or maybe he picked things up too late or wasn’t verbal enough, but Bakary was involved in way too many defensive positioning mistakes as a sophomore. The Minnesota Gopher defensive miscues led to a load of open space for Big Ten teams to attack game by game and often Bakary was involved with some type of communication mistake with a teammate leading to this.

Bakary will always give you all of his effort. There is definitely a late reaction to things at times but his rebounding efforts, low post defensive efforts, and push to get up and down the floor will always be there. Bakary is a guy who is always putting in the time to get better during practice and outside of it. Heading into his upperclassmen years few Big Ten programs have a low post defender who consistently makes his man score over the top of him as well as Bakary does in one on one situations.

Minnesota needs that same effort this winter plus they need his experience of nearly 700 minutes played last year to make him a more fluid player (game needs to slow down for him and reaction time needs to improve). If Bakary’s role is to come off the bench when Reggie gets in foul trouble or needs a rest, give the team four or five minutes of rebounding, defense, and quality low post touches, do that in three or four rotations a game, and do it with consistent effort, things should be fine.

And Bakary won’t be a typical back-up center minutes wise. Reggie Lynch is one of the most foul prone bigs in the country. There will be many games where Bakary gets the same time he did last year because of the Lynch foul trouble.

Projected Stat Line

Bakary should play about 14-18 minutes a game as a back-up, they need him to shoot in the 60 percent area, continue to grab five rebounds a game, block a shot a game at least, and score his two or three baskets on average while still making nearly 70 percent of his free throws. If Bakary does that and Reggie gives what is expected the Gophers will be in good shape inside.


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