The NCAA finally granted Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr a waiver last week to play this season for Kentucky. With the addition of the 7-foot big-man, UK is starting to rise up preseason rankings around the national media, as he potentially could be the missing link to a Final Four caliber squad.
Sarr said today in his media availability that he anxiously awaited the NCAA’s decision, asking coach Calipari each day if he had heard any updates on the situation. Once Calipari told him the good news last week, he hugged the UK coach in relief and was ready to play.
“I had to make that decision, and then to wait with my waiver and all of that, it was tough even though Coach Cal helped me a lot, supported me. I mean, everybody in the organization here helped me a lot. They told me to stay positive at all times, and I did it. But, honestly, sometimes it was tough. But it paid (off). Now it’s good. Now it’s official and I’m part of the team and I’m just really happy to be here,” he said.
Sarr’s impact could be monstrous for Kentucky this season, as he provides a veteran presence in the frontcourt that can rebound and score in the post. The French basketball standout doesn’t really see himself as an “X-factor”, however, but rather being a leader on a team full of young talent.
“I mean, honestly, it was something that I hear about, but as long as the season doesn’t start all I can do is to focus on my work, focus on helping the team as much as possible as I can at practice, getting the guys ready to face whoever we’re going to face every night, be ready for battle, share my experience, and make the team better as a whole. Then we will see the impact at the end of the season,” he said.
Speaking of young talent, UK Head Coach John Calipari said on Monday that he has been pleased with the way freshmen Isaiah Jackson and Lance Ware have battled with Sarr in practice.
“We’re better. You know, I had to remind my team yesterday that because they’re doing a good job of competing against him. Isaiah (Jackson) and Lance (Ware), I mean, these guys, they’re not just giving way now, So I said, ‘Understand his last two ACC games he had 55 points and 20 rebounds.’ And I said, ‘Now, they weren’t great teams. You know they were Duke and Notre Dame.’ When I say that, I’m joking obviously. But he had 55 and 20. And I said, ‘When you’re competing against him, I’m not sure another guy in our gym could have had 55 and 20. So, you’re competing against a really good player, which tells me we’ve got some good guys.,'” he said.
We are only a month away from the season beginning, and by the sounds of each press briefing so far, the Cats seem confident and ready to get playing. With the confirmed addition of Sarr, UK could once again be in the national spotlight as a title contender.