Olivier Sarr arrived in Lexington back in June, but due to the pandemic, has yet to get the true Kentucky Basketball experience. Normally, players are initiated into the Big Blue Nation with offseason camps and clinics, full of adoring fans and autograph requests; Madness campout, the true epitome of “you people are crazy”; and Madness itself, the plans for which have yet to be revealed. Even though he’s ensconced in the bubble between the lodge and the practice facility, the former Wake Forest star said he can still feel the love from the BBN, which is truly unique.
“There’s a great fanbase, honestly,” Sarr told reporters yesterday. “You can feel it even though I’m not going around and all that, visiting the city, but you can feel that and honestly that’s something that’s really cool as a player.”
Sarr said he also appreciates Lexington’s reputation as “the capital of horse races and all that,” but what he’s concerned about most is adding to Kentucky’s winning culture, the reason he chose the Cats over more than a dozen schools, including Duke, Baylor, Florida State and Gonzaga.
“Really what I would try to do this year is win. That’s why I came to Kentucky and that’s what I’m trying to bring to this team is that experience to win games really. Whatever it takes, sacrifice, whatever the team needs me to sacrifice, and play my role at my best to help that team win and win the national championship.”
So far, Sarr said he’s impressed by Kentucky’s professional approach and what he’s seen from his teammates in practice. Even though John Calipari recruited him to fill a void in the middle, Sarr likes what he’s seen from the rest of the frontcourt.
“It’s a great program. It has high expectations, and you can feel that as soon as you step on campus and as soon as you start practices. As far as my teammates and their impact and challenging, I think everybody brings different stuff playing the four and the five. You’ve got guys like Lance Ware who is really aggressive, really physical. He has a high motor. Then you’ve got Isaiah [Jackson] with length and athleticism. Then you’ve got Jacob [Toppin], same thing. I mean, everybody brings something different and we’re all making each other better every day.”
Wake Forest signed one five-star recruit during Sarr’s time in Winston-Salem, quite a contrast to the stable of high-profile prospects he now plays alongside. Although he’s new to the team too, he said he’s enjoying playing a veteran role.
“Great,” Sarr said of BJ Boston, Terrence Clarke, and Devin Askew. “The three guys you named, like the entirety of the team, great work ethic, great young guys. Always willing to listen to any of advice that older guys like myself or Davion [Mintz], or even Keion [Brooks] has. They are always listening, asking questions, trying to get better every day. It’s just fun to be around them. Makes my job easier as a leader because they are always asking questions, like I said. Really talented and just a great group of guys.”
Kentucky Basketball’s reputation precedes it, even globally. When asked how he would describe the program to his friends back in France, Sarr lit up in a smile.
“When you think of the best basketball program, Kentucky is definitely up there, if not the one. I think it’s the winningest program in the nation. It’s just a factory of NBA players, a factory of winning and winners in general. It’s a team that always goes deep in the tournament. Elite Eight, March Madness, Final Four and all that. They’ve just got that tradition of cutting nets at the end of every season and it’s something that I was really drawn to.”
And, hopefully, something to which he can contribute.