Make it four days in a row that a player on the Kentucky men’s basketball team has been named to a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame preseason watch list.
This afternoon, UK senior forward Olivier Sarr was named to the 20-player watch list for the 2021 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, presented to the nation’s best power center.
Sarr is one of just 15 upperclassmen under consideration and the lone player from the Southeastern Conference to make the list.
Named after Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, this year’s award will be presented at the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show in April. The award is in its seventh year of existence and UK has yet to have a winner named the best center.
Sarr, who was granted immediately eligibility last month after transferring from Wake Forest, will provide the Wildcats a big boost upfront. The 7-footer enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2019-20 with the Demon Deacons, averaging 13.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. He shot 52.7% from the floor, made the All-Atlantic Coast Conference Third Team and was the runner-up for the 2020 ACC Most Improved Player award.
Widely regarded as one of the nation’s top transfers, Sarr totaled 664 points, 496 rebounds and 81 blocks with 31 starts in three seasons at Wake Forest.
Sarr should offer Kentucky an elite rim protector with considerable size and good athleticism. In his third season with the Demon Deacons, he led the team with 11 double-doubles and 33 blocks, scored in double figures in 23 games, and was a two-time ACC Player of the Week. Sarr was particularly good late in conference play, finishing on a six-game double-figure scoring run with three double-doubles.
Included in that season-ending tear was a 20-point, 13-rebound game vs. Pitt in the 2019-20 finale, a career-high 30 points and 17 rebounds in a win vs. Notre Dame, and 25 points in a double-overtime victory over Duke. Sarr also enjoyed three straight double-doubles in January vs. Virginia, Clemson and Boston College and recorded 21 points and 13 rebounds vs. nationally ranked Arizona.
Sarr showed promise as a sophomore, averaging 6.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in 25 games, including 16 starts. He led the team with 25 blocks and scored in double figures in four games.
Prior to his career at Wake Forest, Sarr played for the French National Team at the U-17 and U-18 levels. He will be the 10th 7-footer in UK history and the first since Isaac Humphries in 2016-17.
By mid-February, the watch list will be trimmed to 10 players. Five finalists will be revealed in late February with the winner being announced during the annual ESPN College Basketball Awards show on April 9. Fan voting will be a part of all three rounds of voting before a winner is announced.
Fan Voting presented by Dell Technologies opened at 1 p.m. on Friday. Fans can vote for their favorite players in each of the three rounds. The top 10 player selections from the fan vote will get an additional vote towards making the next round.
Sarr is the fourth UK player to make a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame preseason positional ward watch list. Earlier this week, freshman forward Isaiah Jackson was tabbed to the Karl Malone watch list (nation’s best power forward), freshman guard Terrence Clarke was named to the Hall of Fame’s Jerry West Award watch list (nation’s top shooting guard) and freshman guard Brandon Boston Jr. landed on the Julius Erving watch list (nation’s top small forward).