CHICAGO- Adam Sanogowearing his UConn Nike sneakers with the Husky logo on the left tongue, he stood outside the 3-point arc 30 minutes before his second game at NBA Draft Combine at the Wintrust Arena on Thursday.
He fired shot after shot, and NBA coaches and assistants repeatedly passed the ball to him a few steps behind the line. Finally, the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four changed the situation and, catching in the same place, put the ball on the floor and drove to the basket for a series of shots. Sweat beaded on his face as he twirled the ball in his hands and smiled as he warmed up from a free-kick.
On the same floor, three days earlier, he had to take off his shoes and stand while his height was measured. He was tall enough to take a ride, but not tall enough to cut forward.
It was already a bit too small for the center then listed at 6 ft-9 by UConn in sneakers, the tape said 6-7 1/4 in Chicago.
Sanogo doesn’t let it fool him. He feels he has worked to make the most of his chances on the court to offset his unfavorable height, and hopes he has done well enough to attract the attention of the hundreds of NBA scouts and executives who have scattered around the 10,387-seat arena.
“It’s a sport, people will say what they want,” Sanogo said on Thursday, referring to doubts about his height. “You can only control what you control, so I try to focus, work hard, do things that make me happy. I don’t try to care what people say. The only thing I can control is working on my game.
In first sparring of the week Sanogo led his team, led by Utah Jazz assistant Evan Bradds, with a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds. He came off the bench on Wednesday but deserved a start on Thursday and scored his first points with his driving setup. Sanogo finished his second action with 13 points (6-of-10 from the field), six rebounds and three assists.
Adama Sanogo runs across the floor and throws it!
— NBA (@NBA) May 17, 2023
He tried a wide-open three-pointer from the top of the key, the most convenient spot for him to fire a three-pointer, but he hit a little too far in the NBA, where the line is three feet farther from the basket than in college.
Sanogo continued to show off much-improved passing skills with a smooth plate through the back door, and on the defensive end sent a glass layup attempt with a block that called out “Whoa!” from one person from the NBA in a rarely reacting crowd.
“I think I did well,” Sanogo said. “I wasn’t at my best but I think I did well. I think I did well defensively, but I need to shoot a little better.
At this point, Sanogo was working on his off-season 3-point shot to help his play translate into the NBA, but he missed a single shot on the first play and missed his only attempt on the second. On Monday, during the combination training leg, Sanogo fired 14 of his 25 shots (56%) in the spot-up shooting practice and 11 of 25 in the 3-point all-star practice.
On the defensive side, Sanogo hopes to be able to add some versatility, guard more positions, get further away from the basket and increase his perimeter defense mobility.
“I think I can do it, I feel like I need to work on my body a bit,” he said. “I also feel you have a good mindset, you just have to have a good mindset. These are things you can control, so I think I can definitely do that. “
While he is absent from most fake drafts, the former UConn captain said he faced the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz during his time in Chicago.
UConn head coach Dan Hurley said in April, after Sanogo declared his draft call-up, that his “whole goal is pro ball” and “Adama is done with college basketball.”
But for now, he is enjoying and appreciating the journey.
“I used to dream of moments like this,” he said, remembering a 14-year-old version of himself who had come to the US from Mali. “Being able to attend the merger, I never thought I’d be able to attend here. So being here, I’m just trying to enjoy it. It’s a good achievement for me.”