A high-profile player on the transfer market, Olivier Sarr was hailed by many as Kentucky’s savior in the frontcourt. That’s not exactly been the case since the season tipped-off. There have been ebbs and flows in production. Now Sarr can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The most dramatic adjustment Sarr had to make upon his arrival in Lexington was not actually on the court. As soon as his name entered the transfer portal, he felt the BBN’s presence online. Sarr had to learn how to play under immense pressure.
“Obviously it’s really different,” he said Monday morning. “It’s the same game but you got more pressure at Kentucky, more outside pressure, more expectations and you can feel that as a player. It’s a good preparation for the next level but it takes some time to adapt and get used to.”
One can safely assume that pressure accumulated after he missed shots at the buzzer that could have given Kentucky victories over Notre Dame and Louisville. Not long after he got stuck in an offensive rut, scoring just six points apiece in three consecutive games. Despite foul trouble, he appears to have dug his way out of that rut, scoring 13 points in 12 minutes of action against LSU.
“With Olivier it’s believing what you’re doing,” said UK assistant coach Bruiser Flint. “Kid has great skill level. He’s a great kid. He works at it. You just gotta believe what you’re doing. That was a big leap for him too, coming from Wake Forest to Kentucky the pressure is totally different on how people perceive how you play. And if you don’t think that plays a part in it, then you’re crazy. But I think the last couple of weeks he’s feeling a lot more comfortable and you can see it in his play, a lot more consistent.”
On the court he had to adjust to a different style of play in the SEC. He can notice a significant difference in his opponents this year than the ones he faced a year ago.
“It’s a different style of play. I think it’s more athletic in this league. You don’t play against big centers that much. There’s a couple of the teams that got big centers, but not as much in the ACC I think, at least last season in comparison. Other than that, the style of play is a little bit different,” he shared.
It’s forced Sarr to play more physical, something he did not necessarily bring with him in his arsenal to Lexington. When he plays aggressive, he scores points and Kentucky wins. The Notre Dame and Richmond games are the only losses this year where Sarr scored in double figures. That’s why John Calipari has challenged Sarr to be more assertive every time he takes the court.
“I think he’s trying to show me that I need to be more involved offensively, take more responsibility for the team, be more aggressive, getting to the free throw line and just finding a way to be productive so they can rely on me every game,” Sarr said.
“It’s really important for me, making sure I’m low to the ground, staying aggressive, grabbing tough boards. It’s just something that I’ve gotta focus on more and just bring every night, be more consistent.”